Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/422

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Burney
Burney
416

music-teacher and as a finished man of the world. He was so much favoured by his patron that on the private marriage of the latter he was deputed to give the bride away. Not long after Greville's marriage Burney fell in love with a Miss Esther Sleepe, whom he met at his brother Richard's house in Hatton garden, and to whom he was married in 1749. In the same year Burney was appointed organist of St. Dionis Backchurch, at a salary of 30l. a year, and was (3 Dec.) elected a member of the Royal Society of Musicians. He was also engaged as conductor at the ‘New Concerts’ held at the King's Arms, Cornhill. On 13 Dec. 1750 Mendez's ‘Robin Hood’ was produced at Drury Lane with music by Burney. This was a failure, but on the 26th of the same month it was retrieved by the success of the pantomime of ‘Queen Mab,’ to which Burney also wrote the music. A few songs in the latter work were published anonymously, ‘compos'd by the Society of the Temple of Apollo.’

But Burney's London career was suddenly cut short by a severe illness which confined him to his bed for thirteen weeks. On his recovery he was ordered to leave town, and accordingly accepted the post of organist at Lynn Regis, where his annual salary was 120l. Here he remained for upwards of nine years, occupied with much correspondence, plans for the ‘History of Music’ which was afterwards to make him famous, and riding about the country to his music lessons with a volume of Italian poetry in one pocket and a dictionary in the other. In 1759 he wrote music to an ode for St. Cecilia's day, which was performed in costume, with much success, at Ranelagh Gardens. In 1760, his health being completely restored, he returned to London and settled in Poland Street, where his time was soon fully taken up with teaching. In 1761 he sustained a severe loss in the death of his wife, who seems to have been fully his equal in intellect and culture. In Madame d'Arblay's ‘Memoirs’ there is a touching letter from Burney describing his loss in words which for once are not in his usual stilted manner.

After his wife's death Burney took his daughters Esther and Susanna to Paris, where he left them at school. On his return, at Garrick's suggestion, he adapted Rousseau's opera ‘Le Devin du Village,’ which was produced at Drury Lane in 1766 (21 Nov.) as ‘The Cunning Man,’ without, however, achieving any great success. Shortly afterwards he was married privately to Mrs. Stephen Allen of Lynn, a widow with two children. In 1769 he undertook to set to music the ode for the Duke of Grafton's installation at Cambridge as chancellor, but was prevented from accomplishing his purpose by the means at his disposal being so limited. He took the degree of Mus. Doc. at Oxford in June, and his exercise was performed on the 23rd of that month, Miss Barsanti being the principal soloist. The work was so successful that it was repeated at the three subsequent Oxford festivals, and was also performed at the Katharinenkirche at Hamburg under C. P. E. Bach. In the same year he published an ‘Essay towards the History of Comets,’ a work which included a translation by his first wife of a letter by Maupertuis. His astronomical pursuits brought on an attack of rheumatic fever, on his recovery from which Burney began once more seriously to collect materials for his ‘History of Music.’ For this purpose he left England in June 1770, well provided with influential letters of introduction, and proceeded to Italy by way of France and Switzerland. He visited all the principal Italian towns, and returned by way of Genoa, Lyons, and Paris. During his absence Mrs. Burney had bought a new house in Queen Square, Bloomsbury, and Burney retired to the house of his friend Crispe, Chessington Hall, near Ewell, Surrey, where he prepared for the press his account of his foreign tour, which appeared in 1771. The book was a great success, and is still amusing and interesting, though much of the information contained in it was subsequently incorporated in the ‘History of Music.’ In the same year he published a translation of a letter on bowing by the great violinist Tartini. At the beginning of July 1772 he left England again, and travelled across Belgium to Germany, making his way as far as Vienna, and returning by Dresden, Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, and the Netherlands. He arrived at Calais in December, and for nine days attempted to cross the Channel, but was prevented by bad weather. When he eventually reached London he was laid up with another severe illness, brought on by the hardships of the journey. During his illness the house in Queen Square had to be relinquished owing to some difficulty about the title, but Mrs. Burney bought another one (which had formerly belonged to Newton), 36 St. Martin's Street, Leicester Square. In 1773 Burney published the account of his German tour (in 2 vols.), a very successful work. In the same year he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. Three years later, and six years after the issue of his original plan, he published the first volume of his ‘History of Music,’ which was dedicated to Queen Charlotte. A second edition of this volume