Eager, John (DNB00)

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EAGER, JOHN (1782–1853?), organist, was born in 1782 in Norwich, where his father was a manufacturer of musical instruments. He learnt the rudiments of music from his father, and made such progress that at the age of twelve he attracted the notice of the Duke of Dorset, who took him to Knowle as a page. Here he improved his education in the fine library, and probably acquired skill upon the violin, of which the duke was an amateur. Towards the end of the century his patron became insane, and Eager, for whose support no provision had been made, ran away to Yarmouth, where he proceeded to set up as a teacher of music. Soon afterwards he married Miss Barnby, a lady of good fortune, and in October 1803 was appointed organist to the corporation of Yarmouth on the death of John Roope. In 1814 J. B. Logier patented his ‘chiroplast,’ an invention for holding the hands in a proper position while playing the pianoforte, and his system of teaching was ardently taken up by Eager. The adherents of the new method were of course vehemently attacked by conservative musicians, and Eager came in for a full share of abuse in the Norfolk papers and elsewhere. He gradually convinced a considerable number of persons of the excellence of the system, which, in addition to the use of the chiroplast, professed to teach the ground work of harmony, &c., much more rapidly and thoroughly than any other method. Another of its peculiarities was that twelve or more of the pupils were required to play simultaneously on as many pianos. He opened a ‘musical academy for music and dancing,’ in the conduct of which he was assisted by his daughters, at the Assembly Rooms, Norwich, and public examinations were in due course held for the purpose of convincing the audience of the genuineness of the method. After the second of these Eager published ‘A Brief Account, with accompanying examples, of what was actually done at the second examination of Mr. Eager's pupils in music, educated upon Mr. Logier's system. … June 18, 1819, addressed to Major Peter Hawker,’ published by Hunter in St. Paul's Churchyard. The appendix to the account gives certain letters written to, but not inserted in, the ‘Norwich Mercury’ and the ‘Norfolk Chronicle’ by persons who considered that the opinions expressed by those papers were unfair. Eager's reputation does not appear to have suffered; ten years afterwards he is spoken of in the highest terms by the writer of the ‘History of Norfolk,’ and then held the post of organist to the corporation. In 1833 Eager left Norwich for Edinburgh, where he resided till his death about twenty years later. He separated from his wife, by whom he had two daughters, Mrs. Bridgman and Mrs. Lowe, before leaving England; obtained a Scotch divorce about 1839, and afterwards married a Miss Lowe, sister of his second daughter's husband. He wrote pianoforte sonatas, and some songs and glees of no importance.

[General Hist. of the County of Norfolk (Norwich, 1829), ii. 1282; Assembly Books of the Corporation of Yarmouth; Brown's Biog. Dict. of Musicians; Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 346, 478; information from Sir Thomas Paine of Broomfield, Dorking.]

J. A. F. M.