Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/216

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


204

��RULE, BEITANNIA !

��' Rule, Britannia !' in itself a great proof of the popularity of the air.

���When Britain first

��at Heav'n's com - mand

��By a singular anachronism, Mr. Schoelcher, in his 'Life of Handel' (p. 299), accuses Arne of copying these and other bars in the song from Handel, instead of Handel's quoting them from Arne. He says also : ' Dr. Arne's Alfred, which was an utter failure, appears to have belonged to 1751.' It was not Arne's 'Alfred' that failed in 1751, but Mallet's alteration of the original poem, which he made shortly after the death of Thomson. Mallet endeavoured to appropriate the credit of the masque, as he had before appro- priated the ballad of William and Margaret,' and thereby brought himself into notice. 1 Mallet's version of 'Alfred' was produced in 1751, and, in spite of Garrick's acting, failed, as it deserved to fail. 2

Mr. Schoelcher's primary mistake led him to search further for resemblances between the music of Handel and of Arne. He found

��P

��for - z avri.

in Handel, and

��in Arne. Not knowing that this cadence was the common property of the whole world, he imagined that Arne must have copied it from Handel. His objections have been answered by Mr. Husk, Mr. Roffe, and others in vols. iv. and v. of ' Notes and Queries,' and Series, to which the curious may be referred. Even the late M. Fetis, who had Anglophobia from his youth, and who repaid the taunts of Dr. Burney upon French music with sneers upon English composers, admits that ' Arne eut du moins le me"rite d'y mettre un cachet par- ticulier, et de ne point se borner, comme tous les compositeurs Anglais de cette epoque, a imiter Purcell ou Haendel.' M. Fetis's sneer at the other English composers of 'cette e"poque' as copyists of Handel is quite without foundation. Handel's music, even with other words, was pub- lished under his name as its recommendation; English church musicians would have thought it heresy to follow any other models than those of their own school, and English melodists could not find what they required in Handel. Ballad operas, Arne's Shakespearian songs, Vauxhall songs, bal-

1 For 'William and Margaret,' with and without Mallet's altera- tions, see Appendix to vol. iii. of 'Eoxburghe Ballads,' reprinted for the Ballad Society ; also an article in No. 1 of the periodical entitled The Antiquary.'

f See Chappell's ' Popular Music of the Olden Time.'

��RULE, BRITANNIA !

lads, and Anglo -Scottish songs, were the order of the day ' a cette e*poque,' and Handel's purse suf- fered severely from their opposition.

The score of ' Rule, Britannia ! ' was printed by Arne at the end of 'The Judgment of Paris,' which had also been produced at Cliefden in 1740. The air was adopted by Jacobites as well as Hanoverians, but the former parodied, or changed, the words. Among the Jacobite paro- dies, Ritson mentions one with the chorus

Rise, Britannia! Britannia, rise and fight 1 Bestore your injured monarch's right.

A second is included in ' The True Loyalist or Chevalier's favourite,' surreptitiously printed without a publisher's name. It begins :

Britannia, rouse at Heav'ns command I And crown thy native Prince again ;

Then Peace shall bless thy happy land, And plenty pour in from the main ;

Then shalt thou be Britannia, thou shalt be From home and foreign tyrants free I etc.

Another is included in the same collection.

A doubt was raised as to the authorship of the words of ' Rule, Britannia ! ' by Dr. Dinsdale, editor of the re-edition of Mallet's Poems in 1851. Dinsdale claims for Mallet the ballad of ' William and Margaret,' and ' Rule, Britannia ! ' As to the first claim, the most convincing evidence against Mallet unknown when Dinsdale wrote is now to be found in the Library of the British Museum. In 1878 I first saw a copy of the original ballad in an auction room, and, guided by it, I traced a second copy in the British Museum, where it is open to all enquirers. It reproduces the tune, which had been utterly lost in England, as in Scotland, because it was not fitted for dancing, but only for recitation. Until Dinsdale put in a claim for Mallet, ' Rule, Britannia ! ' had been, universally ascribed to Thomson, from the adver- tisements of the time down to the ' Scotch Songs' of Ritson a most careful and reliable authority for facts. Mallet left the question in doubt. Thomson was but recently dead, and consequently many of his surviving friends knew the facts. 'According to the present arrangement of the fable,' says Mallet, 'I was obliged to reject a great deal of what I had written in the other ; neither could I retain of my friend's part more than three or four single speeches, and a part of one song.' He does not say that it was the one song of the whole that had stood out of the piece, and had become naturalised, lest his 'friend' should have too much credit, but ' Rule, Britannia ! * comes under this description, because he allowed Lord Bolingbroke to mutilate the poem, by substituting three stanzas of his own for the 4th, 5th and 6th of the original. Would Mallet have allowed this mutilation of the poem had it been his own? Internal evidence is strongly in favour of Thom- son. See his poems of ' Britannia,' and ' Liberty.' As an antidote to Dinsdale's character of David Mallet, the reader should compare that in Chal- mers's ' General Biographical Dictionary.'

Beethoven composed 5 Variations (in D) apon the air of 'Rule, Britannia!* and many minor stars have done the like. [W.C.]

�� �