Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/455

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DIBDIN.
443
 

chiefly the concertos of Corelli and the theoretical works of Rameau. The place of organist at Bishop's Waltham becoming vacant, Dibdin offered himself for it, but was rejected on account of his youth. When fifteen years old his eldest brother brought him to London and placed him in the music warehouse of Johnson in Cheapeide, where however he did not remain long, a friend having advised him to try the stage. He obtained an engagement at Covent Garden Theatre as a singing actor. About the same time he began to write verses as well as music, in which he was encouraged by Beard, then become manager of the theatre, who advised him to try his hand at something for the stage, promising to bring it out at Dibdin's benefit. He accordingly set to work and wrote and composed 'The Shepherd's Artifice,' a pastoral, which was performed at his benefit in the season of 1762–63, and repeated in the following season, the author-composer performing the character of Strephon. He had performed in the summer of 62 at the Richmond theatre on the hill; and he now obtained an engagement at Birmingham, where he not only played at the theatre but sung at Vauxhall. In the beginning of 65 the opera of 'The Maid of the Mill' was about to be produced at Covent Garden, and some difficulty arising with Dunstall, who was to have played Ralph, Dibdin was requested by Beard to undertake the part. He made a decided hit, and at once established himself firmly in the public favour. In 1767 he composed part of the music for 'Love in the City,' and in the next year two-thirds of that of 'Lionel and Clarissa.' In 68 Dibdin transferred his services from Covent Garden to Drury Lane, where he signalised himself by his composition of the music of 'The Padlock,' and his admirable performance of Mungo in it. In the following year he was engaged to compose for Ranelagh, where he produced 'The Maid the Mistress,' and 'The Recruiting Sergeant.' He likewise composed some of the music for the Shakspere Jubilee at Stratford-on-Avon in that year. In 1772 Thomas King, having become proprietor of Sadler's Wells, engaged Dibdin to write and compose some little musical pieces to be brought out there. In 74 Dibdin produced 'The Waterman,' and in 75 'The Quaker,' pieces which have kept uninterrupted possession of the stage ever since, the songs being still listened to with as much pleasure as when first heard. At the end of the latter season he quitted Drury Lane owing to differences that had arisen between him and Garrick, and exhibited at Exeter Change a piece called 'The Comic Mirror,' in which well-known characters of the day were personated by puppets. In 1776 he took a journey into France, where he remained some months. On his return he was engaged as composer to Covent Garden Theatre at a salary of £10 a week, but he held the appointment for two or three seasons only. In 1782 he projected the erection of the Royal Circus (afterwards the Surrey Theatre), which was opened Nov. 7, 1782, Dibdin undertaking the general management, Hughes the equestrian department, and Grimaldi (father of the afterwards famous clown; the stage direction. For this theatre the ever-active pen of Dibdin was employed in the production of numerous little musical pieces and pantomimes. The first season was remarkably successful. In the second, dissensions broke out amongst the managers, in consequence of which he retired from the theatre. He then made an attempt to regain his position at the patent theatres, and succeeded in getting his opera, 'Liberty Hall' (containing the popular songs of 'Jack Ratlin,' 'The high-mettled racer,' and 'The Bells of Aberdovey'), brought out at Drury Lane on Feb. 8, 1785. Soon afterwards he listened to a proposal to erect a theatre at Pentonville, where he purposed representing spectacles in which hydraulic effects should be introduced. He proceeded to some extent with the building, which he intended to call 'Helicon,' but his application for a licence was refused, and shortly afterwards a gale of wind destroyed the edifice and put an end to the project. Dibdin next meditated a visit to India, and, to raise funds for the purpose, in 1787–88 made a tour through a large part of England and gave entertainments. He published an account of this tour in 1788, in a quarto volume, under the title of 'The Musical Tour of Mr. Dibdin.' In the summer of 88 he sailed for India, but the vessel being driven to take shelter in Torbay, he finally abandoned his intention and returned to London. Dibdin next resolved to rely on his own unaided exertions, and in 1789 produced at Hutchins' Auction Room, King Street, Covent Garden, the first of those 'table entertainments' which he originated [App. p.613 [see vol. iv. p.51 a], and of which he was author, composer, narrator, singer, and accompanyist, under the title of 'The Whim of the Moment.' On the first evening there was an attendance of only sixteen persons. Dibdin, however, persevered; he engaged the Lyceum and brought out 'The Oddities,' the success of which was at once decisive; and no wonder, for it contained, amongst others, the songs, 'To Bachelors' Hall,' '’Twas in the good ship Rover,' 'The Flowing Can,' 'Saturday night at sea,' 'Ben Backstay,' 'I sailed from the Downs in the Nancy,' 'The Lamplighter,' and 'Tom Bowling"; the last written on the death of his eldest brother, Captain Dibdin. And here it may be observed that nearly the whole of those sea songs that contributed so largely during the war to cheer and inspire the hearts of our seamen, and gained for their author the appellation of the Tyrtæus of the British Navy, were written by Dibdin for his entertainments. In 1790 'The Oddities' was revised, and ran 79 nights, when it was succeeded by 'The Wags,' which was performed for 108 nights. The great sale of 'Poor Jack,' the copyright of which and eleven other songs he had sold for £60, and which in a short time had brought its purchaser a profit of £500, induced Dibdin about this time to become his own publisher. In 1791 he removed from the Lyceum to a room in the Strand, opposite Beau-