Forster, William (1739-1808) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 20
Forster, William (1739-1808)

by Lydia Miller Middleton
Contains subarticles William Forster (1764-1824), William Forster (1788-1824), Simon Andrew Forster (1801- 1870).

FORSTER, WILLIAM (1739–1808), the founder of a family of eminent musical instrument makers and publishers, known in the trade as 'Old Forster,' was the son of a maker of spinning-wheels and repairer and maker of violins in Cumberland. William made his way southwards as a cattle-drover, and reached London in 1759. At home he had been carefully taught music and the making of instruments, and the violins with which he supplied the shops were accepted and sold without difficulty. His talent obtained him permanent employment from Beck, a music-seller of Tower Hill, until Forster started a business of his own in Duke's Court, St. Martin's Lane, whence he removed about 1785 to No. 348 Strand. The tone of his violins is penetrating; great attention was paid to their varnish and finish, and even now the earlier 'Forsters,' especially the violoncellos and double basses, are considered of some value. As a publisher Forster became honourably known through his connection with Haydn. Orchestral and chamber music was not at that time popular in England, and the enterprise which introduced more than one hundred of Haydn's important works to this country deserved the success, it ultimately gained. Among letters published in 'The History of the Violin' are several of interest from Haydn, referring to the purchase of his compositions by the Forsters between 1781 and 1788. William Forster (1764-1824), son of the above William Forster, made instruments of a fair quality. Music-seller to the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cumberland, he was dis- tinguished as 'Royal' Forster, although his father had enjoyed similar court, favours. William Forster (1788-1824), eldest son of the second William Forster, made no more than twelve or fifteen violins, &c., but occupied himself as violoncellist in theatre orchestras. Simon Andrew Forster (1801- 1870), the fourth son of the second William Forster, carried out the instructions of his father and his brother in Frith Street, and later in Macclesfield Street, Soho. He was part author of the 'History of the Violin' (1864), from which some of the details in this article have been taken.

[Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 555; Brown's Biog. Dict. p. 252; Sandys and Forster's Hist. of the Violin, 1864, p. 290, &c.]

L. M. M.