« PreviousContinue »
panegyric; and least of all when it is given at the expense of others. His conduct, as Governor-General of Bengal, to Lord Macartney as Governor of Madras, cau only be explained from a feeling of jealousy at his lordship's well-earned reputation. The boasted assistance given by Bengal to the Madras government, in the deplorable state to which its dissensions and distresses had brought it, and in which Lord Macartney on his arrival found it, was tardily and ungraciously bestowed; and with regard to the letter of Mr. Hastings of the 24th March, 1783, which Col. Wilks is pleased to call “ a performance of infinite force, and worthy of perusal even as a specimen of literary talent, it appears to us to be chiefly remarkable as an effusion of irritable pride. Colonel Wilks does not notice the answer to that letter from Madras ;—perhaps he was not aware of it; nor of the opinion of Sir John M.Pherson, the friend of Mr. Hastings, and the second in council at Bengal, on the two productions :- We fired (said he) a pop-gun at you, but you returned us a thirty-two pounder.
But even these are trifles when compared with the grave and serious charge we have still in reserve against Colonel Wilks;that, in short, of having traduced, at once, the living and the dead. Two of the three commissioners, who were sent by Lord Macartney to make peace with Tippoo Sultaun, (afraid for their personal safety,) are accused by Colonel Wilks of having secretly concerted a plan to effect their escape on board a ship; of concealing their intention froin the other commissioner till they were actually on their way to embark; and of abandoning the officer commanding the escort sent for their protection, four other officers, (one of whom was their own aide-de-camp,) their guards and other attendants, to their fate:-a fate which could not be doubtful at the hands of the ferocious tyrant who, we are told, had already caused three gibbets to be erected, one before the tent of each of the commissioners. Colonel Wilks finds no intimation in the official records of any such intention on the part of the commissioners, but this does not satisfy him-he met with something about a white handkerchief which led General Macleod to an unwarrantable and unjustifiable assertion of an intended escape; and, this ' mystery' induced the historian to institute further inquiry, the result of which,
founded on high and incontrovertible living authority,' is to prove that the atrocious intention of sacrificing a party of innocent persons, sent expressly as a guard to those commissioners, is true, and that it was only prevented by a premalure discovery. ii. p. 514-517).
The two commissioners thus calumniated were the late Sir George Staunton and Mr. Huddlestone. The latter is not only still living, but holds, we believe, a seat in the direction of the East
India Company; and we take it for granted he will find it necessary to wipe off the stain, or failing to do that, to resign a situation for which he would be utterly disqualified. If we had not daily examples to prove how little we are apt to profit by the errors of others, we should have thought that the recent fate of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall might have cured authors from indulging a propensity to develope mysteries' at the expense of private reputation.
With regard to Sir George Staunton, we can speak with more decision; for we happen to have known him well: he was a man totally unacquainted with personal fear, and on all occasions of hardship or danger, less solicitous about his own comfort and safety, and more so for those of the persons about him, than almost any other man.—The respect we bear his memory emboldens us to challenge the living authority,' careless how 'high' it may be, to produce his 'incontrovertible’ proof for the tale he has so circumstantially told, and Col. Wilks (to say the least of it) so indiscreetly published.
ART. III. The Lives of Haydn and Mozart; with Observations
on the Genius of Metastasio, and the present State of Music in France and Italy. Translated from the French of L. A. C. Bombet. With Notes by the Author of the Sacred Melodies.
London. 1817. TN all biographical works, the first question that occurs is, how
are the facts authenticated ? This question the lively and intelligent author of the volume before us has anticipated in his letter dated Vienna, 15th April, 1808.
I have good authority for every thing that I may say to you respecting Haydn. I have received his history, in the first instance from himself; and in the next, from persons who have associated most with him during the different periods of his life. I will mention the Baron Von Swieten, Professors Fribert, Pichl, and Weighl, Counsellor Griesenger, Bertoja, Monsieur Martinez, and Mademoiselle de Kurtzberg, the intelligent pupil and friend of Haydn, and the faithful copyist of his music.'
Francis Joseph Haydn, the father of modern instrumental music, was born in 1732 at Rohrau, a village fifteen leagues from Vienna. His father, sexton of the village, had a fine tenor voice, which he appears to have carefully cultivated, and he was at least not deficient in that general knowledge of music which characterizes all classes of his countrymen. On holydays, after divine service, his favourite amusement was to play upon the harp while his wife sang.
'The birth of Joseph did not alter the habits of this peaceful family.
The little domestic concert returned every week; and the child, standing before his parents with two pieces of wood in his hands, one of which served him as a violin, and the other as a bow, constantly accompanied his mother's voice. Haydn, loaded with years and with glory, has often, in my presence, recalled the simple airs which she sang, so deep an impression had these first melodies made on his soul which was all music. A relation of the family, whose name was Frank, a schoolmaster at Haimburg, came to Rohrau one Sunday, and assisted at the trio. He remarked that the child, then scarcely six years old, beat the time with astonishing exactitude and precision. Frank, who was well acquainted with music, proposed to his relations to take little Joseph to his house and to teach him. They accepted the offer with joy, hoping to succeed more easily in getting Joseph into holy orders if he should understand music.'
It is to be regretted that our author has not preserved the simple melodies which made so early and so deep an impression on
the mind of Haydn, as we might perhaps be able to trace some of · his most brilliant ideas to these early associations. However this
may be, the love of melody was so deeply fixed in his mind, that soon after his removal to Haimburg, the natural turn of his genius led him to invent a method of producing it from the most unpromising materials. His first musical instrument was a tambourine which he accidentally discovered, and although it has only two tones, he contrived, by dint of trials and perseverance, to form upon it a kind of air, which attracted the attention of all who heard it.
By degrees he learned to sing at the parish desk, and to understand Latin, in which language the service was performed; but his knowledge of the mechanical part of the violin and other instruments was acquired, as we believe it ever must be at so early an age, by labour not always voluntary; for, according to his own expression, Frank gave him more cuffs than gingerbread;' and this essential part of his education continued till Reuter, maître de chapelle of St. Stephens, Vienna, happened to visit Haimburg, in search of recruits for the children of the choir. Haydn was proposed, and his powers were immediately put to the test by an erperimentum crucis, for the young candidate was desired to sing a canon at sight: the effect we shall describe in the author's own words.
* The precision, the purity of tone, the spirit with which the child executed it surprized him ; but he was more especially charmed with the beauty of his voice. He only remarked, that he did not shake, and asked him the reason with a smile. The child smartly replied, “ How could you expect me to shake, when my cousin does not know how himseli?” “ Come here,” said Reuter, “ I will teach you.” He took kim between his knees, shewed him how he should rapidly bring toge
ther two notes, hold his breath, and agitate the palate. The child immediately made a good shake. Reuter, enchanted with the success of his scholar, took a plate of fine cherries, which Frank had caused to be brought for his illustrious brother professor, and emptied them all into the child's pocket. His delight may be readily conceived. Haydn has often mentioned this anecdote to me, and he added, laughing, that whenever he happened to shake, he still thought he saw these beautiful cherries.
These anecdotes, trilling as they may appear, bear upon the face of them evident marks of authenticity; but we have thus minutely traced the early history of Haydn's progress, because the direction so given to his first impressions laid the foundation of all his future excellence. Placed on the establishment of the cathedral at Vienna, the road to fortune and to fame was open to him; he was in a great degree his own master, and his success was from that moment to depend upon himself. The regulations of St. Stephens required that the children of the choir should practice two hours every day, which most of them probably thought quite long enough. Haydn felt very differently. Nature had fixed in his mind an ardent and insatiable love of music. At any time, he would rather listen to any instrument whatever, than run about with his little companions. When at play with them in the square near St. Stephens, as soon as he heard the organ, he quickly left them and went into the church ;' and he told our author, that from the period of his belonging to the choir of St. Stephens, he did not recollect having passed a single day without practising sixteen and sometimes eighteen hours. The works of Haydn are, therefore, the result of powers to which all difficulties must eventually yield -enthusiasm, and unwearied application.
At the early age of thirteen he composed a mass. This was his coup d'essui, and he had fortunately sufficient good sense to be aware of its defects as soon as they were pointed out by his master. He now found that it was necessary to learn counterpoint, and the laws of harmony. But how was this knowledge to be acquired ? The teachers in Vienna, like those in other parts of the world, would not give lessons gratis. Haydn had no money, and his father was so poor that he could only send him six florius (about eleven shillings) to replace his clothes which had been stolen. But these obstacles only called forth new energy; he procured some cheap and obscure theoretical treatises, from which, by dint of intense solitary labour, he made himself master of the principles of his art; and the advantages of this method of study were, that whatever he learned with difficulty was strongly impressed upon his mind, and that he continually made little discoveries which he afterwards well knew how to employ to advantage. This he has often described as the happiest period of his life; for though
shivering shivering with cold in his comfortless garret, and frequently oppressed with sleep as he pursued his studies to a late hour of the night, by the side of a crazy broken down old harpsichord; his mind was fully occupied, and days and years few on rapid wing. He seemed to have nothing to wish for, as his ruling passion was always the love of music, rather than the love of glory; and even in his desire of glory not a shadow of ambition was to be found. In composing music, he sought rather his own gratification than the means of acquiring celebrity
The knowledge of counterpoint and the laws of harmony was a the reward of intense labour; but Haydn was obliged to resort to artifice for that of the true Italian style of singing, and of accompanying the voice. The Venetian ambassador had a mistress passionately fond of music, who had given an apartment in his hotel to old Porpora. Into this family Haydn contrived to be introduced, but in what capacity we are not informed; and during an excursion to the fashionable baths of Manensdorff, by unremitting attention to the little comforts and the whims of the cross-grained old musician, which was at first only repaid by the epithets of 'fool, and blockhead,' he at length attained the objects of his ambition. Porpora gave him good advice, and at the same time taught him to accompany, and the fair Wilhelmina to sing, the most exquisite, as well as the most difficult specimens of Italian music. The ambassador, astonislied at the progress of the poor young man, allowed him, on his return to Vienna, a monthly pension of six sequins (about 31. sterling) and a seat at his secretary's table. Haydn, whose attention was always steadily directed to one object, the acquirement of professional knowledge, considered bis present affluence as the means of further progress, He purchased a black suit of clothes ; and thus, being decently attired, he was enabled to introduce himself to society in which his whole time was usefully employed. At day-break, he played first violin at the church of the Order of Mercy; and afterwards the organ at the chapel of Count Haugwitz; he then sang the tenor part at the cathedral; retired to his humble lodging, and sat down at the harpsichord till the night was far advanced. Thus forming his taste by the precepts of all the musical men with whom he could contrive to become acquainted, seizing every opportunity of hearing good music, and, unfettered by the rules or the manner of any particular master, he began to form his own conceptions of what was fine in music, and gradually and unconsciously prepared himself to form hereafter, a style entirely his own.
Having passed the years of childhood and of youth, we are now arrived at a new era in the life of Haydn. He became too old to remain on the establishment of St. Stephens, and as the ambassa