Tomkins, Thomas (d.1656) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 57
Tomkins, Thomas (d.1656)

by Henry Davey
1904 Errata appended.
Contains subarticles Nathanael Tomkins (d. 1681), John Tomkins (1586–1638) & Giles Tomkins (d. 1668?).

TOMKINS, THOMAS (d. 1656), musician, was of a family which produced more musicians than any other family in England (Wood). His father, also named Thomas Tomkins, was in holy orders and precentor of Gloucester Cathedral; he was descended from the Tomkinses of Lostwithiel. One of the madrigals in Morley's ‘Triumphs of Oriana’ (1601) was composed by the Rev. Thomas Tomkins; and he wrote an account of the bishops of Gloucester Cathedral. Of his six sons—Peregrine, Nathanael, Nicholas, Thomas, John (see below), and Giles (see below)—the most distinguished was Thomas, who states in the dedication of his madrigals that he was born in Pembrokeshire. He studied under William Byrd [q. v.] at the chapel royal in London, and graduated Mus. Bac. Oxon. on 11 July 1607.

Thomas's first known appointment as organist was to Worcester Cathedral, where an organ was built in 1613 at unusual expense (Green, History of Worcester, App.) In Myriell's ‘Tristitiæ Remedium,’ dated 1616, and now in the British Museum as Additional MSS. 29372–7, six of his compositions are copied. On 2 Aug. 1621 he was sworn in as one of the organists of the chapel royal, in succession to Edmund Hooper. This post did not necessitate his resigning the appointment at Worcester, as arrangements had been made in 1615 for the organists and singers of the chapel royal to attend in rotation. In 1625 forty shillings was paid him ‘for composing of many songes against the coronation of Kinge Charles.’ On the death of Alfonso Ferrabosco [q. v.], the bishop of Bath and Wells directed that Tomkins should be appointed ‘composer for the voices and wind instruments;’ but the order was revoked by the king, who had promised the place to Ferrabosco's son (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 15 March 1628; Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. i. 341). What became of Tomkins after the suppression of the chapel royal and choral services is unknown. He was buried at Martin Hussingtree, near Worcester, 9 June 1656. His wife Alicia died on 29 Jan. 1641–2, and was buried in the cathedral (Abingdon, Antiquities of Worcester, 1717, p. 77). Her funeral sermon by John Toy [q. v.] was published in quarto.

Two important collections of Thomas Tomkins's music were published. His ‘Songs of three, four, and five, and six parts’ are without date; but the mention of ‘Dr.’ Heather and the dedication to William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, show that the work was printed between 1622 and 1629. Each number has also a separate dedication, one of which is to Phineas Fletcher [q. v.], the others mostly to well-known musicians. The collection includes twenty-eight fine anthems and madrigals. Long after Tomkins's death appeared a much larger collection, ‘Musica Deo Sacra et Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ; or, Musick dedicated to the Honor and Service of God, and to the Use of Cathedral and other Churches of England, especially to the Chapel Royal of King Charles the First,’ 1668. Burney inaccurately stated the date as 1664, which has caused a supposition that there were two editions. The collection contains five services and ninety-eight anthems. The organ copy has directions for counting time by the pulse and for the pitch to which organs should be tuned. Both publications are very rare. Complete copies are preserved at the Royal College of Music, and in Dean Aldrich's library at Christ Church. The British Museum has one part-book of the ‘Songs,’ and the vocal portion of ‘Musica Deo Sacra.’

Many manuscripts at the British Museum, Ely and Durham cathedrals, the Royal College of Music, Lambeth Palace, Tenbury, and Peterhouse, Cambridge, contain anthems and services by Tomkins. There are In Nomines, fantasies, and pavans in British Museum Additional MSS. 17792–6; pavans and galliards in Additional MSS. 30826–8; and five pieces for the virginals in the manuscript at the Fitzwilliam Museum, now edited. Additional MS. 29996, which was apparently begun by John Redford, and perhaps continued by Tallis and Byrd, was completed and annotated by Tomkins, who has inserted pieces of his own, and some by his brother John, also some satirical verses against the puritans. Another volume of his instrumental music was in the possession of Farrenc (Fétis, Biographie Universelle). At St. John's College, Oxford, is a choir-book partly written by him, partly by Michael Este. His works are included in ‘Divine Services and Anthems,’ a word-book published in 1663 by James Clifford of St. Paul's; and Wood says there was a manuscript volume of his sacred music at Magdalen College. The most remarkable of Tomkins's works are the anthems ‘O praise the Lord, all ye heathen,’ which is for twelve voices, and ‘Glory be to God,’ for ten voices. These and others were scored by Thomas Tudway [q. v.] from the choir-books at Ely, and he justly described them as ‘very elaborate and artful pieces, and the most deserving to be recorded and had in everlasting remembrance.’ One was scored by Purcell in a volume now at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Modern editors have reprinted very few of Tomkins's works. A psalm-tune is in Turle and Taylor's ‘People's Singing Book,’ 1844. Joseph Warren, in his ‘Chorister's Handbook’ and enlarged edition of Boyce's ‘Cathedral Music,’ inserted a service in C and some anthems; and Ouseley's ‘Cathedral Music,’ 1853, contains a service in D, with a Venite. Three anthems are in Cope's collection. The preces from ‘Musica Deo Sacra,’ and preces, responses, and litanies from the choir-books at Peterhouse, Cambridge, with some chants, were published in Jebb's ‘Choral Responses and Litanies,’ 1847–57. One madrigal has been reprinted.

His son, Nathanael Tomkins (d. 1681), graduated B.D. from Balliol College, Oxford, on 31 March 1628–9. He was made prebendary of Worcester Cathedral in 1629. He had allowed some of the worn-out copes and vestments to be used as ‘players' caps and coats,’ but upon the appointment of Roger Manwaring [q. v.] as dean in 1633 all such were burned. Subsequently Nathanael Tomkins appears as one of the high-church party, siding with the dean against the bishop and townsmen (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1635–1641). He was ejected from his appointment and his various benefices by the puritans, but survived to the Restoration, and died, still prebendary of the cathedral, on 21 Oct. 1681 (Walker, Sufferings of the Clergy, ii. 81; Foster, Alumni Oxon.)

Of the brothers of Thomas Tomkins, the most distinguished was John Tomkins (1586–1638), who in 1606 succeeded Orlando Gibbons as organist of King's College, Cambridge. Having studied music ten years, he received the degree of Mus. Bac. on 6 June 1608, on condition of composing a piece for performance at the commencement. He was to be presented in the dress of a bachelor of arts. John Tomkins was intimate with Phineas Fletcher, who has made him, under the name of Thomalin, an interlocutor in three of his eclogues. About 1619 he left Cambridge, and became organist of St. Paul's. Fletcher, then in Norfolk, addressed a poem to him on the occasion. In 1625 Tomkins was sworn for the next place that should fall vacant in the chapel royal. He was appointed epistler, 3 Nov. 1626, and gospeller on 30 Jan. 1626–7. It is probable that he excelled rather as an executant than as a composer. Anthems by him exist in most manuscripts with his brother Thomas's, but they are few in number, and none have been printed. He composed a clever set of sixteen variations on ‘John, come kiss me now,’ which his brother copied in Additional MS. 29996. Joseph Butler, in his ‘Principles of Musick,’ 1636, calls Thomas and John Tomkins aureus par musicorum. Both helped in harmonising Ravenscroft's ‘Psalter,’ 1621. John died on 27 Sept. 1638, and was buried in St. Paul's, his epitaph calling him the most celebrated organist of his time. William Lawes [q. v.] composed an elegy on his death, printed by Henry Lawes [q. v.] at the end of ‘Choice Psalms,’ 1648. His youthful pupil, Albertus Bryne [q. v.], succeeded him at St. Paul's, Richard Portman at the chapel royal. His son Thomas (1637?–1675) [q. v.], chancellor and canon of Exeter Cathedral, is separately noticed.

Giles Tomkins (d. 1668?) succeeded John at King's College. He followed his brothers to court, and won the favour of Charles I, who in 1629 ordered that he should be elected to a prebend in Salisbury Cathedral, vacant by the death of John Holmes the organist, whose widow claimed it for her son. The latter was supported by the bishop and three canons, the other three and the dean voting for Tomkins. The matter was referred to a committee consisting of Archbishop Abbot, the bishops of Ely, Winchester, Norwich, and Llandaff, with the dean of St. Paul's, the poet Donne. On 22 June they reported that they had not succeeded in arranging the dispute, and in their opinion Tomkins was lawfully elected. King Charles then ordered that he should be admitted provisionally while the case was tried by law. The decision of the court of arches was apparently in favour of Holmes. In 1634 Tomkins was instructor of the boys of the cathedral, a post held by one of the seven choirmen, another being organist. In the meantime Tomkins had been appointed, on the death of Richard Dering in 1630, household musician to the king, with a pension of 40l. per annum and livery. At Laud's visitation of Salisbury Cathedral it was reported that Giles Tomkins left the choir-boys untaught when he went to attend at court. Anthony à Wood, who calls him organist of Salisbury Cathedral, says that he died there about 1668. John Blow [q. v.] succeeded him as court musician on 15 Jan. 1668–9 (The Musician, 18 Aug. 1897). Anthems by Giles Tomkins are mentioned by Clifford, and in the choir-book written by his brother and Este (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Charles I, vols. cxlvii. cliv. clxix. clxxxvii. dxxx.; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 129).

[Thomas Tomkins's published works; Cheque-book of the Chapel Royal in Camden Society's publications, 1872, pp. 10–12, 47, 58; Wood's Fasti, col. 799, ed. Bliss, ii. 319; Rimbault's Bibliotheca Madrigaliana; Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, iv. 134, 309, 763; Hawkins's Hist. of Music, c. 103; Burney's General Hist. of Music, iii. 127, 365; Tudway's Letters and Scores, in Harl. MSS. 3782, 7339; Bloxam's Registers of Magdalen College, i. 27, corrected in ii. 47, iii. 141, and the index; Catalogue of the Manuscripts at Peterhouse, in Ecclesiologist for August 1859; Weale's Catalogue of the Loan Exhibition of 1885, p. 158; Coxe's Catalogue of the manuscripts in the Colleges at Oxford; Dickson's Catalogue of the Manuscripts at Ely; Dugdale's St. Paul's, p. 101; Ouseley's contributions to Naumann's Illustrirte Geschichte der Musik, English edit. p. 743; Davey's Hist. of English Music, pp. 132, 199, 216, 234–7, 354; manuscripts and works quoted. Nathanael Tomkins, son of a gentleman of Northamptonshire, who was successively chorister, clerk, and usher of the school at Magdalen College from 1596 to 1610, has been confused with Thomas Tomkins. The mistake first appears in Wood's Fasti, col. 799. It was copied in Foster's Alumni Oxonienses, in Rimbault's Cheque-book of the Chapel Royal, and in C. F. Abdy Williams's Degrees in Music. It may even be found in the first volume of Bloxam's Registers of Magdalen College, but was subsequently corrected.]

H. D.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.267
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
10 i 2 Tomkins, Thomas (d. 1656): for Hassingtree read Hussingtree