Fanny Burney.

Memoirs of Doctor Burney (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 20)
Online LibraryFanny BurneyMemoirs of Doctor Burney (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ae<.v- -i^'KSKr *"<<•'.-


ok: «•-

C C'C(^ ■<■




< ««. < ci^flc: ■*!: «ya

wrr* - *-

^5.*: .%<\

tiCx^ c <Ia3c<c

ege^j^iEt . -.,-....

axc <:<:<<:

so: <<



jet' «c


l^<s82^isf^M' <■<!< ': c?":''" c<ic.-t:<^riiit""<<cpMOQr'- <tc



• ''<:<:<ss3c.«::«f*^"*'^ '^^^

— -i^ C ^^'



iSM^fcsiLs 'C ._ tak^a^-:'. v-«i:X«: <




jC vSk£.QG^B&^


" -**s^^ «s<^«3Cc- «3«^: -"•■-:.'




•^- *-<:<•■


E<rK|3[BB&Kt 4






' ■














" O cotdd my feeble powers thy virtues trace,
By filial love each fear should be suppress'd ;
The blush of incapacity I'd chace,
And stand— Recorder of Thy worth !— confess'd."

Anonymous Dedicutmi of Evelina, to Dr. Burney, in 1778.






KM M^,





Such, as far as can be gathered, or recollected,
was the list of the general home circle of Dr. Bur-
ney, on his beginning residence in St. Martin's-
street ; though many persons must be omitted, not
to swell voluminously a mere catalogue of names,
where no comment, or memorandum of incident, has
been left of them by the Doctor.

But to enumerate the friends or acquaintances
with whom he associated in the world at large, would
be nearly to ransack the Court Calendar, the list of
the Royal Society, of the Literary Club, of all
assemblages of eminent artists ; and almost every
other list that includes the celebrated or active cha-
racters, then moving, like himself, in the vortex of
public existence.



Chiefly, however, after those already named, stood,
in his estimation, Mr. Chamier, Mr. Boone, Dr.
Warton, and his brother. Dr. Thomas Wart on, Sir
Richard Jebb, Mr. Matthias, Mr. Cox, Dr. Lind,
and Mr. Planta, of the Museum.


At the end of the year VT75^ the Doctor's eldest
son, Captain James Burney, who, on board the
Cerberus, had convoyed General Burgoyne to Ame-
rica, obtained permission from the Admiralty to
return home, in order to again accompany Captain
Cooke in a voyage round the world ; the. second
circumnavigation of the young Captain ; the third,
and unhappily the last, of the great Captain Cooke.

Omiah, whom they were to restore to his country
and friends, came now upon a leave-taking visit to
the family of his favourite Captain Burney.

Omiah, by this time, had made some proficiency
ill the English language, and in English customs ;
and he knew the town so well, that he perambulated
it for exercise and for visits, without either inter-
preter or guide.


But he owed quite as much assistance to attitude
and gesture, for making himself understood, as to
speech, for in that he was still, at times, quite unin-
telligible. To dumb shew he was probably familiar,
the brevity and paucity of his own dialect making
it necessarily a principal source of communication
at Ulitea and at Otaheite. What he knew of English
he must have caught instinctively and mechanically,
as it is caught by children ; and, it may be, only the
faster from having his attention unencumbered with
grammatical difficulties, or orthographical contrarie-
ties : yesterday served for the past, in all its dis-
tances : to-morrow, for the future, in all its depen-

The King allowed him a handsome pension, upon
which he lived perfectly at ease, and very happily :
and he entertained, in return, as gratefully loyal a
devotion to his Majesty as if he had been a native
born subject.

He was very lively, yet gentle ; and even politely
free from any forwardness or obtrusion ; holding
back, and keeping silent, when not called into notice,
with as much delicacy and reserve, as any well-bred
European. And his confidence in the benevolence
and honour of the strangers with whom he had

B 2


trusted his person and his life, spoke a nature as
intrepid as it was guileless.

Dr. Burney inquired of him whether he had
lately seen the King ?

*' Yes," he answered, " Yes. King George bid
me, * Omy, you go home.' O ! dood man, King
George ! ver dood man ! — not ver bad ! "

He then endeavoured, very pleasingly, to discri-
minate between his joy at returning to his native
land, and his grief in quitting England. " Lord
Sandwich," he said, " bid me — Mr. Omy, you two
ships : one, two : you go home. Omy make ver fine
bow ; " which he rose to perform, and with grace
and ease ; *' den Omy say. My lord, ver much
oblige ! "

The Doctor asked whether he had been at the
Opera ?

His answer was a violent and ear-jarring squeak,
by way of imitating Italian singing. Nevertheless,
he said that he began to like it a great deal better
than he had done at first.

He now missed Richard, the Doctor's youngest
son,* and, upon being told that he was gone to

By the second marriage.


school, clapped his hands, and cried, ** O, learn
book ? ver well." Then, putting his hands toge-
ther, and opening and shutting them, to imitate
turning over the leaves of a book, he attempted to
describe the humour of some school that he had
been taken to see. " Boys here ; " he cried : **boys
there ; boys all over. Master call. One boy come
up. Do so, — '' muttering a confused jargon to
imitate reading. " Not ver well. Ver bad. Mas-
ter do so ! "

He then described the master giving the boy
a rap on the shoulder with the book. '' Ha ! ha ! —
Boy like ver bad ! not ver well. Boy do so ; "
making wry faces. *' Poor boy ! not ver dood. Boy
ver bad."

When the Doctor wished to know what he thought
of English horses, and the English mode of riding,
he answered, *' Omy like ver well." He then tried
to expatiate upon riding double, which he had
seen upon the high road, and which had much
astonished him. *' First," cried he, " go man ;
so ! — " making a motion as if mounting and whip-
ping a horse. ** Then here ! " pointing behind
him ; " here go woman ! Ha ! ha ! ha ! "


The Doctor asked when he had seen the beauti-
ful Lady Townshend, who was said to desire his

He immediately made a low bow, with a pleased
smile, and said, " Ver pret woman. Lady Towns-
hend ; not ver nasty. Omy drink tea with Lady
Townshend in one, two, tree days. Lord Towns-
hend my friend. Lady Townshend my friend.
Ver pret woman. Lady Townshend : ver pret woman
Mrs. Crewe : ver pret woman Mrs. Bouverie : ver
pret woman. Lady Craven."

Dr. Burney concurred, and admired his taste.
He then said, that when he was invited anywhere
they wrote, '' Mr. Omy, you come — dinner, tea,
supper. — Then Omy go, ver fast."

Dr. Burney requested that he would favour us
with a national song of Ulitea, which he had sung
to Lord Sandwich, at Hinchenbrook.

He seemed much ashamed, and unwilling to com-
ply, from a full consciousness now acquired of the
inferiority of his native music to our's. But the
family all joined in the Doctor's wish, and he was
too obliging to refuse. Nevertheless, he was so
modest, that he seemed to blush alike at his own


performance, and at the barbarity of his South Sea
Islands' harmony ; and he began two or three times
before he could gather firmness to proceed.

Nothing could be more curious, or less pleasing
than this singing. Voice he had none ; and tune,
or air, did not seem to be even aimed at, either by
composer or performer. 'Twas a mere queer, wild
and strange rumbling of uncouth sounds.

His music, Dr. Burney declared, was all that he
had about him of savage.

He took great pains, however, to Englishize the
meaning of his ditty, which was laughable enough.
It appeared to be a sort of trio, formed by an old
woman, a young woman, and a young man : the two
latter begin by entertaining each other with praises
of their mutual merits, and protestations of their
mutual passion ; when the old woman enters, and
endeavours to allure to herself the attention of the
young man ; and, as she cannot boast of her personal
charms, she is very busy in displaying her dress and
decorations, and making him observe and admire her
draperies. He stood up to act this scene ; and
shewed much humour in representing the absurd
affectation and languishing grimaces of this ancient
enamorata. The youth, next, turning from her


with scorn, openly avows his passion for the young
nymph : upon which, the affronted antique dame
authoritatively orders the damsel away ; and then,
coming up, with soft and loving smiles, offers herself
unreservedly to the young man ; saying, to use his
own words, '* Come — marry me ! '' The young man
starts back, as if from some venomous insect ; but,
half returning, makes her a reverence, and then
humbly begs she will be so good as to excuse him ;
but, as she approaches to answer, and to coax him,
he repels her with derision, and impetuously runs

Notwithstanding the singing of Omiah was so
barbarous, his action, and the expression of his
countenance, was so original, that they afforded
great amusement, of the risible kind, to the Doctor
and his family, who could not finally part from him
without much regret ; so gentle, so ingenuous, so
artless, and so pleasing had been his conduct and
conversation in his frequent visits to the house ;
nor did he, in return, finally quit them without
strong symptoms even of sadness.

In the February of the ensuing year, 1776> Cap-
tain Burney set sail, with Captain Cooke and Omiah,
on their wateiy tour.



In the private narrative of an historian of the
musical art, it may not be improper to insert some
account of the concerts, which he occasionally gave
to invited friends and acquaintances at his own
house ; as they biographically mark his style of life,
and the consideration in which he was held by the
musical world.

The company was always small, as were the
apartments in which it was received ; but always
select, as the name, fame, and travels of the Doctor,
by allowing him a choice of guests, enabled him to
limit admission to real lovers of music.

He had never any formal band ; though it is pro-
bable that there was hardly a musician in England
who, if called upon, would have refused his ser-
vices. But they were not requisite to allure those
whom the Doctor wished to please or oblige ; and a
crowd in a private apartment he thought as inimical
to harmony as to conversation.

It was, primarily, to gratify Mr. Crisp that, while
yet in Poland-street, he had begun these little mu-
sical assemblages ; which, in different forms, and


with different parties, he continued, or renewed,
through life.

The simplicity of the entertainment had, pro-
bably, its full share in the incitement to its partici-
pation. A request to or from the master of the
house, was the sole ticket of entrance. And the
urbanity of the Doctor upon these occasions, with
the warmth of his praise to excellence, and the
candour of his indulgence to failure, made his recep-
tion of his visitors dispense a pleasure so uncon-
strained, so varied, so good-humoured, that his con-
certs were most sought as a favour by those whose
presence did them the most honour.

To style them, however, concerts, may be confer-
ring on them a dignity to which they had not any
pretension. There was no bill of fare : there were
no engaged subalterns, either to double, or aid, or
contrast, with the principals. The performances
were promiscuous ; and simply such as suited the
varying humours and desires of the company ; a
part of which were always assistants as well as

Some details of these harmonical coteries, which
were written at the moment by this memorialist to
Mr. Crisp, will be selected from amongst those


which contain characteristic traits of persons of cele-
brity ; as they may more pointedly display their cast
and nature, than any merely descriptive reminis-

No apology will be pleaded for the careless man-
ner in which these accounts are recorded ; Mr. Crisp,
as may have been observed in the narrations that
have been copied relative to Mr. Bruce, prohibited
all form or study in his epistolary intercourse with
his young correspondent.

** To Samuel Crisp, Esq.

" Chesington, Kingston, Surrey.

" Let me now try, my dear Mr. Crisp, if I cannot
have the pleasure to make you dolorously repent
your inexorability to coming to town. We have
had such sweet music ! — But let me begin with the
company, according to your orders.

" They all arrived early, and staid the whole

" The Baron de Deiden, the Danish ambassador.


" The Baroness, his wife ; a sweet woman, in-
deed ; young, pretty, accomplished, and graceful.
She is reckoned the finest dilletante performer on
the piano-forte in Europe.

" I might be contented, you will perhaps say, to
have given her this precedence in England and in
Denmark ; L e. in her own country and in our's :
but Europe sounds more noble !

" The Honourable Miss Phipps, who came with
her, or rather, I believe, was brought by her, for
they are great friends ; and Miss Phipps had
already been with us in Queen-square. Miss Phipps
is a daughter of Lord Mulgrave, and sister to the
famous Polar captain. She seems full of spirit and

'* Sir James and Lady Lake ; Sir Thomas Clarges ;
Mrs. and Miss Ord ; and a good many others, agree-
able enough, though too tedious to mention, having
nothing either striking or odd in them. But the pride
of the evening, as neither you, my dear Mr. Crisp, nor
Mr. Twining, could be with us, was Mr. HARRIS,
of Salisbury, author of the three treatises on Poetry,
Music, and Painting ; Philosophical Arrangements ;
Hermes, &c. He brought with him Mrs. Harris, and
his second daughter, Miss Louisa, a distinguished


lady-musician. Miss Harris,* the eldest, a cultivated
and high-bred character, is, I believe, with her
brother, our minister at Petersburgh.

" Hettina,t Mr. Burney, and our noble selves,
bring up the rear.

" There was a great deal of conversation pre-
vious to the music. But as the party was too
large for a general chatter^nent, every body that
had not courage to stroll about and please themselves,
was obliged to take up with their next neighbour.
What think you, then, of my good fortune, when I
tell you I happened to sit by Mr. Harris ? and that
that so happening, joined to my being at home, —
however otherwise insignificant, — gave me the intre-
pidity to abandon my yea and nay responses, when
he was so good as to try whether I could make any
other. His looks, indeed, are so full of benignity,
as well as of meaning and understanding ; and his
manners have a suavity so gentle, so encouraging,
that, notwithstanding his high name as an author,
all fear from his renown was wholly whisked away
by delight in his discourse and his countenance.

* Now the Honourable Mrs. Robinson.
f The Doctor's eldest daug-hter.


" My father was in excellent spirits, and walked
about from one to another, giving pleasure to all
whom he addressed.

*' As we had no violins, basses, flutes, &c., we were
forced to cut short the formality of any overture,
and to commence by the harp. Mr. Jones had a
very sweet instrument, with new pedals, constructed
by Merlin. He plays very well, and with very neat

*' Mr. Burney, then, at the request of the Baro-
ness de Deiden, went to the harpsichord, where he
fired away with his usual genius. He first played a
Concerto of Schobert's ; and then, as the Baroness
would not let him rise, another of my father's.

" When Mr. Burney had received the compli'
ments of the nobility and gentry, my father soli-
cited the Baroness to take his place.

** ' O no ! ' she cried, ' I cannot hear of such a
thing ! It is out of the question ! It would be a
figurante to dance a pas seul after Mademoiselle

" However, her animated friend. Miss Phipps,
joined so earnestly with my father in entreaty, that,
as the Baron looked strongly his sanction to their
wishes, she was prevailed upon to yield j which she


did most gracefully ; and she then played a difficult
lesson of Schobert's remarkably well, with as much
meaning as execution. She is, besides, so modest,
so unassuming, and so pretty, that she was the
general object of admiration.

** When my father went to thank her, she said
she had never been so frightened before in her life.

** My father then begged another German com-
position from her, which he had heard her play at
Lord Mulgrave's. She was going, most obligingly,
to comply, when the Baron, in a half whisper,
and pointing to my sister Burney, said ; * Apr^s^
ma ch^re I '

'' ' Eh hien out ! ' cried Miss Phipps, in a lively
tone, * apr^s Madame Burney ! come Mrs. Burney,
pray indulge us.'

** The Baroness, with a pleased smile, most
willingly made way ; and your Hettina, unaffectedly,
though not quite unfluttered, took her seat ; and to
avoid any air of emulation, with great propriety
began with a slow movement, as the Baroness had
played a piece of execution.

*' For this purpose, she chose your favourite bit
of Echard ; and I never heard her play it better, if
so well. Merlin's new pedals made it exquisite ;


and the expression, feeling, and taste with which
she performed it, raised a general murmur of ap-

*' Mr. Harris inquired eagerly the name of the
composer. Every body seemed to be struck, nay
enchanted : and charmed into such silence of atten-
tion, that if a pin had dropt, it would have
caused a universal start.

" I should be ashamed not to give you a more
noble metaphor, or simile, or comparison, than a
pin ; only I know how cheap you hold all attempts
at fine writing ; and that you will like my poor
simple pin, just as well as if I had stunned you with
a cannon ball.

" Miss Louisa Harris then consented to vary the
entertainment by singing. She was accompanied by
Mr. Harris, whose soul seems all music, though he
has made his pen amass so many other subjects into
the bargain. She has very little voice, either for
sound or compass ; yet, which is wonderful, she
gave us all extreme pleasure ; for she sings in so
high a style, with such pure taste, such native
feeling, and such acquired knowledge of music, that
there is not one fine voice in a hundred I could
listen to with equal satisfaction. She gave us an


unpublished air of Sacchlni's, introduced by some
noble recitative of that delicious composer.

" She declared, however, she should have been
less frightened to have sung at a theatre, than to
such an audience. But she was prevailed with to
give us, afterwards, a sweet flowing rondeau of
Rauzzini's, from his opera of Piramis and Thisbe.
She is extremely unaffected and agreeable.

" Then followed what my father called the great
gun of the evening, Muthel's duet for two harpsi-
chords ; which my father thinks the noblest compo-
sition of its kind in the world.

" Mr. Burney and the Hettina now came off
with flying colours indeed ; nothing could exceed
the general approbation. Mr. Harris was in an
ecstacy that played over all his fine features ; Sir
James Lake, who is taciturn and cold, was surprised
even into loquacity in its praise ; Lady Lake, more
prone to be pleased, was delighted to rapture ; the
fine physiognomy of Miss Phipps, was lighted up
to an animation quite enlivening to behold ; and the
sweet Baroness de Deiden, repeatedly protested she
had never been at so singularly agreeable a concert

" She would not listen to any entreaty, however,

VOL. II. c


to play again ; and all instrumental music was voted
to be out of the question for that night. Miss
Louisa Harris then, with great good breeding, as
well as good nature, was won by a general call to
give us a finale, in a fine bravura air of Sacchini's,
which she sung extremely well, though under evi-
dent and real affright.

" There was then a good deal of chat, very gay
and pleasing ; after which the company went away,
in all appearance, uncommonly gratified : and we
who remained at home, were, in all reality, the

" But how we wished for our dear Mr. Crisp !
Do pray, now, leave your gout to itself, and come
to our next music meeting. Or if it needs must
cling to you, and come also, who knows but that
music, which has

** * Charms to sooth the savage breast,
To soften rocks, and bend a knotted oak — '

may have charms also. To soften Gout, and Unbend
Knotted Fingers ? "


Previously to any further perusal of these juve-
nile narrations, it is necessary to premise, that there


were, at this period, three of the most excelling
singers that ever exerted rival powers at the same
epoch, who equally and earnestly sought the ac-
quaintance and suffrage of Dr. Burney ; namely,
Miss Cecilia Davies, detta I'Inglesina,
La Signora Agujari, detta la Bastardella,
And the far-famed Signora Gabriel li.


Miss Cecilia Davies, during a musical career,
unfortunately as brief as it was splendid, had, at her
own desire, been made known to Dr. Burney in a
manner as peculiar as it was honourable, for it was
through the medium of Dr. Johnson ; a medium
which ensured her the best services of Dr. Burney,
and the esteem of all his family.

Her fame and talents are proclaimed in the His-
tory of Music, where it is said^ ** Miss Davies had
the honour of being the first English woman who
performed the female parts in several great theatres
in Italy ; to which extraordinary distinction suc-
ceeded that of her becoming the first woman at the
great opera theatre of London."

And in this course of rare celebrity, her unim-

c 2


peachable conduct, her pleasing manners, and her
engaging modesty of speech and deportment, fixed
as much respect on her person and character, as her
singularly youthful success had fastened upon her
professional abilities.

But, unfortunately, no particulars can be given of
any private performance of this our indigenous
brilliant ornament at the house of Dr. Burney ; for
though she was there welcomed, and was even eager
to oblige him, the rigour of her opera articles pro-
hibited her from singing even a note, at that time,
to any private party.*

The next abstract, therefore, refers to

* This early celebrated performer, now in the decline of life,
after losing her health, and nearly out-living her friends, is
reduced, not by faults but misfortunes, to a state of pecuniary
difficulties, through which she must long since have sunk, but
for the generous succour of some personages as high in bene-
volence as in rank.f Should this appeal awaken some new
commiserators of talents and integrity, bowed down by years and
distress, they will find, in a small apartment. No. 58, in Great
Portland-street, a feeble, but most interesting person, who is
truly deserving of every kind impulse she may excite.

f She is assisted, occasionally, by many noble ladies ; but the
Earl of Mount Edgcumbe is her most active patron.



" To Samuel Crisp, Esq.

" My dear Mr. Crisp,

" My father says I must write you every
thing of every sort about Agujari, that you may get
ready, well or ill, to come and hear her. So pray
make haste, and never mind such common obstacles
as health or sickness upon such an occasion.

" La Signora Agujari has been nick-named, my
father says, in Italy, from some misfortune attendant

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryFanny BurneyMemoirs of Doctor Burney (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 20)