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First Published 1881

Publishers of Scarce Scholarly Books

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Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 68-25285

Standard Book Number 8383-0285-8

Printed in the United States of America


TAKE the light away from the skies, take the flowers off
our earth, take the waves from the sea, and take Music out
of our lives, and what is left ? A darkened world, a barren
earth, a waste of stagnant water, saddened days and joyless

Music, in one form or another, whether learned or simple,
vocal or instrumental, dramatic or lyrical, appeals to our
entire race, and those who have spent their years in pro-
ducing it for us, have contributed abundantly to the sum
of human happiness. Acknowledging our indebtedness
to them, it is but natural that we should wish to know-
something about the when, where, and how, of their

This information the present series of biographies of
Music's mighty Masters, supplies, in briefly-told volumes,
full of reliable facts, with very little exaggeration or parti-
sanship, and compiled by authors of highest standing,
each with special qualification for his task.

The volumes are issued at the uniform price of 2s. 6d.,
and are obtainable from any bookseller in the Kingdom
and Colonies.

The general editorship has been entrusted to Mr.
Francesco Berger, Hon. K.A.M., F.G.S.M., whose extended
experience has been of valuable service to us and whose
ready help we gratefully acknowledge.


II W Llli Or



WE have every reason to feel grateful to the late Dr. W. H.
Cummings for his interesting and informing biography of
Purcell one of the brightest stars in the musical firmament,
and a man who so largely helps to dispel the false charge
of our not being a musical nation.

It is unquestionable that this country has not, in the
past, produced so many great Composers of opera or
symphony as other countries. The vogue for Italian opera,
and its resultant importation of Italian artists, and the
absorption of our manhood's energies in wars with America
and France, in successful colonisation, and in commercial
enterprise, have contributed to this condition.

Still, with a Purcell, an Arne, a Sterndale Bennett, a
Sullivan, a Balfe, a Wallace, and some others, not to name
the brilliant array of our church-music and madrigal
Composers, though we have not eclipsed other nations, we
have at least honourably competed with them. And the
race of our living Composers promises that we shall, in the
near future, regain the pre-eminence we enjoyed in the
days of Purcell.

In his preface to the original edition of this volume, the
editor, Dr. W. H. Cummings, says : "My hope is that this
little work may be the forerunner of other Purcell studies,
giving further details respecting Purcell's ancestry,
descendants, and family, and also saying something more
of his noteworthy contemporaries and pupils." This wish
I heartily share.

F. B.


Music and poetry attained to a high state of culti-
vation in the reign of Elizabeth ; the Queen herself
was an admirable performer on the virginals, and by
her example and authority did all that was possible
to elevate the art of music, and to encourage learned
musicians throughout her dominions. This happy
condition of things was continued by her successors,
James I. and Charles I., but with the establishment
of the Commonwealth all music, both of church and
theatre, was rigidly suppressed. We read with horror
and indignation of the wanton destruction of church
organs and other musical instruments, and of the tear-
ing and burning of the various Service-books which had
been in use in the cathedrals and collegiate establish-
ments. At Canterbury cathedral " the soldiers violated
the monuments of the dead, spoyled the organs, broke
down the ancient rails and seats with the brazen
eagle which did support the Bible, forced open the
cupboards of the singing-men, rent some of their sur-
plices, gowns, and Bibles, and carryed away others,
mangled all our Service-books and books of Common


Prayer, bestrewing the whole pavement with, the leaves
thereof." At Rochester cathedral, Colonel Sands, hear-
ing the organs, cryed, " A devil on those bag-pipes," and
"one of the rebels" discharged a pistol at the head of
Prebend Larken, who interposed and endeavoured to
prevent the spoliation of the cathedral. At Chichester
cathedral, the officers having sacked the plate and
vestments, left the "destructive and spoyling part to
be finished by the common soldiers, who brake down
the organs, and dashing the pipes with their pole-axes,
scoffmgly said, ' Hark how the organs go ! ' They force
open all the locks, either of doors or desks wherein the
singing-men laid up their Common Prayer books, their
singing-books, their gowns and surplesses ; they rent the
books in pieces, and scatter the torn leaves all over the
church, even to the covering of the pavement." At
Winchester " They enter the church with colours flying,
their drums beating, their matches fired, and that all
might have their part in so horrid an attempt, some of
their troops of horse also accompanied them in their
march, and rode up through the body of the church and
quire until they came to the altar; there they begin
their work ; they rudely pluck down the table and
break the rail, and afterwards carrying it to an ale-
house they set in on fire, and in that fire burnt the
books of Common Prayer and all the singing-books
belonging to the Quire; they throw down the organ
and break the stories of the Old and New Testament
curiously cut out in carved work. The troopers ride
through the streets in surplesses, carrying Common
Prayer books and some broken organ pipes."


In Westminster Abbey, in 1643, " Soldiers were
quartered who brake down the rail about the altar,
and burnt it in the place where it stood ; they brake
down the organ and pawned the pipes at several
ale-houses for pots of ale; they put on some of the
singing-men's surplesses, and in contempt of that
canonical habit, ran up and down the church ; he
that wore the surpless was the hare, the rest were
the hounds."

It would be needless to add to these miserable stories ;
those who care to read further on the subject, are re-
ferred to the quaint old book Mercurius Rusticus, from
whence the foregoing extracts have been taken.

So complete was the destruction of church music-
books, that examples of the pre-Commonwealth time
are now most rare.

Not only were the organs and music destroyed, but
musicians, organists, and singers were turned adrift,
and had to seek precarious livelihoods by teaching
music to the few who cared or were willing to learn
the art, or else to escape starvation by adopting some
less congenial occupation than that for which they were
fitted by nature and education.

If tradition may be relied on, the Protector, Cromwell,
was himself a lover of music, and not unwilling, when
opportunity served, to assist and befriend musicians.

Cromwell's secretary, the poet Milton, was no mean
performer on the organ, and being the son of an emi-
nent composer, 1 would doubtless, with his passionate

1 John Milton the father of the poet was the author of a six-
part madrigal, " Fay re Oriane in the Morne," minted in 1601,


love for music, be at all times ready to use his sympa-
thetic voice and counsel on behalf of any distressed and
poor musician who might petition the Protector for help
or redress.

It is well known that the organ which stood in
Magdalen College, Oxford, was saved from destruction
through the intervention of Cromwell, who privately
caused it to be removed to Hampton Court, where it
was placed in the great gallery, in order that he might
have the frequent pleasure of hearing it ; and he also
appointed as his organist and music-master, at a salary
of WQl. per annum, John Kingston, who had been one
of the musicians to Charles I. Cromwell was extremely
partial to the Latin Motets composed by Eichard Bering,
and these were performed on the organ by Kingston,
who was assisted by his pupils in the vocal parts. The
interesting organ which must have often poured forth
its sweet sounds under the fingers of Milton, was, after
the Protector's death, returned to Magdalen College ;
but subsequently the College authorities sold it, and
it was removed to Tewkesbury Abbey, where it now

Anthony Wood, who lived during the Protectorate,
tells the following characteristic anecdote of Crom-
well :

" In October, 1659, James Quin, M.A., and one of
the senior students of Christ Church, a Middlesex man

of four motets in Leighton's "Tears or Lamentacions " (1614),
and of several Psalm tunes. He also composed an " In Nomine "
in forty parts, for which he received a gold medal and chain
from & Polish prince.


born, but son of Walter Quin, of Dublin, died in a
crazed condition. A. \V. had some acquaintance
with him, and hath several times heard him sing,
with great admiration. His voice was a bass, and he
had a great command of it. 'Twas very strong and
exceeding trouling, but he wanted skill, and could
scarce sing in consort. He had been turned out of
his student's place by the visitors, but being well
acquainted with some great men of those times that
loved music, they introduced him into the company
of Oliver Cromwell, the Protector, who loved a good
voice and instrumental music well. He heard him
sing with very great delight, liquored him with
sack, and in conclusion, said : ' Mr. Quin, you have
done very well, what shall I do for you ? ' To which
Quin made answer, with great compliments, of which
he had command, with a great grace, that ' Your
Highness would be pleased to restore him to his student's
place,' which he did accordingly, and so kept it to his
dying day."

It must not be forgotten that although during the
Commonwealth musicians found it difficult to earn
their bread in consequence of the prohibition of all
public exhibition of their executive skill, yet many of
the learned and erudite musical treatises which have
been handed down to us were published at that time.
From this w r e may be sure that the musical predilections
of Cromwell were regarded with secret hope by the few
musicians who were able privately to pursue their
calling; and indeed public signs were not wanting
during the latter years of the Protector's life, that
had he been spared, the art of music would probably
have received more emphatic and distinct assistance


at his hands. In 1656 he granted a licence to Sir
William Davenant to open a kind of theatre x for " an
entertainment in declamation and music after the man-
ner o!' the ancients ; " and later on he licensed certain
theatrical performances at the Cockpit, in Drury Lane.

The extreme Puritan party did, however, so effectually
destroy and put down all Church music, 2 deeming organs
and service-books superstitious and ungodly, that at the
Restoration, when the authorities set about re-estab-
lishing musical services in the cathedrals, it was impos-
sible to find either instruments, books, or singers
necessary for the purpose ; and, indeed, out of the
large musical establishment of Charles L, only three
men Dr. Wilson, Christopher Gibbons, and Henry
Lawes came forward at the Restoration to claim their
former appointments.

We get a further insight into the condition of Church
music at the Restoration, from Matthew Locke's Present
Practice of Musick Vindicated, published in 1673,
wherein he says, "For above a year after the opening
of His Majestie's Chappel, the orderers of the musick
there were necessitated to supply superior parts of the
music with cornets and men's feigned voices, there
being not one lad for all that time capable of singing
his part readily."

J In a room behind Rutland House, Aldersgate Street.

:i Instrumental and Cathedral music I have ever been wilfully
ignorant of, because I have dearly loved them, and if I had
learnt them to a perfection, this satiety might have bred a
nauseous distaste and surfeit, as in other things, and then 1 had
nothing to delight in. But alas! tins conceit hath failed me,
fur now all church music my hiyheat terrene content is abandoned
amongst us." PHILIP KINO'S "Surfeit," 16-06.


An examination of the old MS. copies of anthems
composed by the organists and singing-men of the
various cathedrals in the reign of Charles II., shows
that a dearth of singing-boys (trebles) was general
throughout the kingdom, the compositions being
chiefly for men's voices only.

From the preceding slight and brief sketch of the
state of music during the Commonwealth, it will be
evident that the Puritan rule was most unpropitious
for the art ; with its professors banned, and its public
performance well-nigh extinguished, music might per-
haps have been expected to have died an unnatural
death; but heaven-born, it retained a vital spark
which needed only the breath of freedom and gentle
encouragement to foster it into a flame.

With the death of Cromwell, the sun of the Puritan
world vanished, but happily at the same time a new
star in the musical firmament arose. Cromwell died in
1658, at Whitehall, and in the same year, within a
bow-shot of the Palace, was born the favoured child
of the muses, destined to raise the musical fame of
England to a height it had never before attained, and
by his beautiful creations to make for himself a name
of undying fame.

This welcome prodigy was Henry Purcell, his birth-
place St. Ann's Lane, Old Pye Street, Westminster.
The precise day of his birth there is unknown, but
there is no doubt about the year 1658. Some re-
mains of the house are still standing. A sketch of it
and the adjoining premises \vas made on the 15th of
April, 1845, by E. W. Withall.




The original drawing, of which a reduced copy is
given, has the following note :

"Three ancient houses in Westminster; in the
right-hand one of which the great H. Purcell was
born, 1658, and passed his early life. They are now
in the last state of ruin, and have long been unin-
habited. The houses adjoining that of Purcell are
of modern date, and project before the others, as well
as encroach somewhat on PurcelTs doorway, hiding

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our- side of the door-frame. Of the old houses the
windows and doorways are nearly all boarded up in the
roughest manner, under which, however, the original
panelled doors are still to be partly found. The
houses are of old red brick. The first door was the
back way into the public-house called the ' Bt-il and
Fish,' kept by Mr. Oldsworth, who lost his licence.
The second door the entrance to the skittle-ground.
The third was Purcell's house."


Purcell was named Henry after his father, a thoroughly
competent and efficient musician, of whom Pepys made
this quaint entry in his diary on the 21st of February,

" After dinner I back to Westminster Hall with
him (Mr. Cre\\e) in his conch. Here I met with
Mr. Lock and Pursell, masters of musiqne, and with
them to the Coffee House, into a room next the water,
by ourselves, where we spent an hour or two, till
Captain Taylor came and told us that the House had
voted the gates of the city to be made up again, and
the members of the city that are in prison to be set at
liberty ; and that Sir G-. Booth's case be brought into
the House to-morrow. Here we had variety of brave
Italian and Spanish songs, and a canon for eight voices,
which Mr. Lock had lately made on these words,
' Domine salvum fac Regem,' an admirable thing.
Here out of the window it was a most pleasant sight
to see the city from one end to the other with a glory
about it, so high was the light of the bonfires, and so
thick round the City ; and the bells rang everywhere. "

"We may note here the intimacy which existed be-
tween Purcell's father and Matthew Locke, 1 the cele-
brated composer, an intimacy and friendship which was
afterwards extended to the son.

Henry Purcell, senior, was a gentleman of the Chapel
Royal, and in that capacity sang in the choir at the
coronation of Charles II. 2 He was also elected a
singing-man of Westminster Abbey, and master of the

1 They acted together in "The Siege of Rhodes" in 1656.

2 His name appears in the cheque-book of the Chapel Royal
as Henry Purcill, and from the same source we learn thnt


chorister boys of that church ; to these appointments he
added that of music copyist of Westminster Abbey, at
that time a very honourable and important position, in
consequence of the wholesale destruction of Service-
books which had taken place during the Common-

A very interesting official document, now pre-
served in the British Museum, of which the follow-
ing is a copy, gives us information respecting the
appointments held by Henry Purcell, the father, in
Westminster Abbey :

"Accounts of Richard Busby, D.D., 1664. The
money computed by John Needham (Gent.) receiver
of the college.

" Cantator in choro Henry Purcell 8 and 40s.
In ro> chorist Henry Purcell 10.
Cantator in choro per stipend et regard
John Harding, Christopher Chapman,
Henry Pur-cell, Edwd. Braddock,
William Hutton, Owen Adamson,
Thomas Hughes, Peter Amblett, Thomas Shorter,
Thomas Condy, Thomas Finnell each 8 and 40s.

" Choristicus

Et in denariis solutis Henry Purcell,

Pro datum chorist ad Ixvi 5 viy d

Intoto hoc anno xxxiy vi" viy d .

Ac etiam et contess Hen - Purcell, pro

Chorist. xx.

Organista Chr. Gibbons 10.

he, in common with the other gentlemen of the Chapel, received
(each of them), four yards of fine sarlet cloth for a gown to
wear at the coronation.

8 12


" To Mr. Chaunter for nine Holly days

On All Saints day 39s/

The first of November

Christmas day


Candlemas day

Lady day

Easter day

Whitson day

St. Peter's day
"To George Dalham, for tuning the organ this

year, 40s. 1
" To John Hill, 2 for playing on the cornett in the

church this year, 4.

" To the organist for rent of his house, 8.
" Given to the organist 3 out of the rents at the

taking of his degree, 5.

" Given by order to the christened Turke nil. 4
" Jan. 11, 16G4 " J. DOLBEN, Decanus.

WAL. JONES, Sub Decanus.



1 George Dalham, a well-known organ builder. Dr. Rimbault
says Father Smith built the organ erected in West r Abbey at
the Restoration, but this payment would suggest a doubt as to
his accuracy.

2 Hill played the treble parts on the cornet in consequence of
the difficulty previously mentioned, of obtaining efficient boys.
He was buried in the cloisters of W. A., in 1667.

3 Christopher Gibbons, son of the celebrated Orlando Gibbons,
was organist of Winchester Cathedral in the reign of Charles I.,
but on the breaking out of the civil war he became a soldier.
He was admitted Doctor of Music at Oxford, by the special
desire of Charles II.

4 Where the word "nil" now stands in the MS. there has
evidently been an erasure of some figure or figures.


In addition to the before-mentioned appointments at
the Chapel Royal and Westminster Abbey held by
PurcelJ, senior, we find that he was also a member
of the Royal baud. The old cheque-book of the Chapel
Royal in recording his death places the matter beyond
doubt :

" These are to certify that Mr. Henry Purcell, who
succeeded Segnor Ange]lo in his place of the private
musicke; that the said Mr. Henry Purcell took pos-
session of his place in the year 1663, upon St.
Thomas's day; deceased the llth August, 166-4. These
are to certifye the death of Mr. Henry Purcell.



It is clear from the foregoing account of the numerous
important musical posts which the father held, that he
was a man of considerable ability, and fully equal to
the task of guiding and fostering the musical predilec-
tions of his infant son ; and there can be no doubt that
Henry Purcell received his earliest instructions in the
art of music from his father. When the latter died he
was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey ; his
age has not been ascertained, but presumably he was
but a young man perhaps he was naturally weak in
constitution and from him the boy Henry may have
inherited the seeds of consumption. The elder Purcell
died in 1664, at which time the young Henry was
just six years old, and with his natural genius he had
doubtless already acquired some considerable skill in
music. It is certain that he was immediately admitted


as a chorister of the Chapel Royal. Happily for him
he had been left by his father to the guardianship of his
uncle Thomas Purcell, who most warmly and affec-
tionately endeavoured to supply the place of the lost
parent by adopting the orphan as his own son.

Thomas Purcell's abilities and professional qualifica-
tions well fitted him for the task which had fallen to
his lot. He was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal and
had been associated with his brother Henry at the
coronation of Charles II. ; he must have been held
in high favour and regard by the king, for court
appointments in various musical capacities fell to him
in rapid succession. Amongst other honourable posi-
tions we find him holding the post of lutenist as
described in the following warrant :

" Charles R., by the Grace of God, &c., to our
trusty and well-beloved Sr Edward Griffin, Knight,
Treasurer of our Chamber, &c. Whereas wee have
made choice of Thomas Purcell to serve us in the office
and place of one of our musitians in ordinary for the
lute and voyce, in the roome of Henry Lawes, deceased,
and for this service and attendance in that place, are
pleased to allow him the wages and livery of six-and-
thirty pounds two shillings and sixpence by the year
during his life. Our will and pleasure is, and We do
hereby will and command you to pay, or cause to be
paid, unto the said Thomas Purcell or his assigns, the
said wages and livery, &c. The first payment to com-
mence and begin from the birth of our Lord, next
ensuing the date hereof, and to continue the same
during the natural life of him, the said Thomas Purcell.
Given the 29th of November, in the 14th year of our
reign (1662). " Ex. pr. WARWICK."


In 1672 Thomas Purcell was appointed a "composer
in ordinary for the violins " in conjunction with Pelham
Humphries, the warrant which is extremely curious
runs thus :

" Charles E., by the Grace of God, &c., to our trusty
and well-beloved Sir Edward Griffin, Knight, Treasurer
of our Chamber, now being, &c. Whereas we have
been pleased to take into our service as Composer in
Ordinary for the Violins, Thomas Purcell and Pelham
Humphreys, Gents., in the room of George Hudson,
deceased, and for their entertainments in consideration
of services done, and to be done, unto us, we have
given and granted, and by these presents do for us and
Our Heirs and Successors, Wee do give and grant unto
the said Thomas Purcell and Pelham Humphreys for
their wages and fee, the sum of fifty-two pounds fifteen

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Online LibraryWilliam Hayman CummingsPurcell → online text (page 1 of 9)