Wade, Joseph Augustine (DNB00)

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WADE, JOSEPH AUGUSTINE (1796?–1845), composer, was born in Dublin in 1796 or 1797. His father is said to have been a dairyman near Thomas Street, Dublin. He was a schoolfellow of Richard Robert Madden [q. v.] at Chaigneau's academy, Usher Street, Dublin, from about 1814 to 1816. Wade is said to have been a student at Trinity College, Dublin, to have been a junior clerk in the Irish record office, and to have studied anatomy at the Irish College of Surgeons; but none of the records of these institutions bear any traces of his name, though in later years he may, with William Rooke, have found employment in the record office. Equal uncertainty surrounds his early musical education; he was probably self-taught. He quitted Dublin, and married a lady of fortune, a Miss Kelly of Garnaville, near Athlone, but he soon became tired of her. On his return to Dublin he is said to have acquired considerable skill as an anatomist and surgeon in the Irish capital. Surgery was, however, soon abandoned, and Wade became a poet-musician. Sir John Andrew Stevenson [q. v.], recognising his great gift of melody, advised Wade to apply for the university chair of music, dormant since 1774 after the resignation of Lord Mornington, but the matter fell through. Wade migrated to London, where he became conductor of the opera during Monck Mason's régime. An oratorio by him, ‘The Prophecy,’ from Pope's ‘Messiah,’ was produced at Covent Garden Theatre on 24 March 1824; his opera, ‘The Two Houses of Granada,’ of which he wrote both words and music, was first performed at Drury Lane on 31 Oct. 1826, with Braham as Don Carlos. In the same year (1826) he composed and published his most successful song, of which he also wrote the words, ‘Meet me by moonlight alone,’ which had extraordinary popularity. It enjoyed the good fortune to be further immortalised by the witty Father Prout in ‘Fraser's Magazine’ (October 1834, p. 480), in a French poem:

Viens au bosquet, ce soir, sans témoin,
Dans le vallon, au clair de la lune.

A man of remarkable gifts and acquirements as a writer of lyrics, a composer, a violinist, and a journalist, witty and quick in perception, Wade became dissipated to the last degree. He drank to excess, and latterly acquired the habit of taking opium. For the last few years of his life he was almost unknown. He did some editorial work for the house of Chappell & Co. at a salary of 300l. a year, and in that capacity, with William Crotch [q. v.] and (Sir) George Alexander Macfarren [q. v.], he harmonised some of the airs of W. Chappell's ‘Popular Music of the Olden Time,’ originally published in 1840 as ‘A Collection of National English Airs;’ he also contributed to ‘Bentley's Miscellany’ and the ‘Illustrated London News,’ but he could never be relied upon. He died penniless, in a state of mental derangement, at his lodgings, 450 Strand, on 15 July 1845. His first christian name appears in the death registers at Somerset House as Joseph (not John), and his surname as Ward. His first wife having died childless, Wade subsequently formed some irregular matrimonial connection, and at his death a subscription was raised for his presumed widow and her two destitute children. Wade's character may be best summarised in the words of the Rev. John Richardson (Recollections, 1855, i. 231): ‘A wise man in theory and a fool in practice. A vigorous intellect; planning everything, performing nothing. Always in difficulties, having the means at hand to extricate himself from their annoyance, yet too apathetic to arouse himself to an effort; content to dream away his time in any occupation but that which the requisitions of the occasion demanded.’

In addition to the works already mentioned, Wade composed: ‘The Pupil of Da Vinci’ (operetta by Mark Lemon); ‘Polish Melodies’ (words and music), 1831; ‘Convent Belles’ (with Hawes), 1833; ‘A Woodland Life’ (polacca interpolated into Weber's ‘Der Freischütz’ and sung by Braham); ‘Song of the Flowers’ (2 books), 1827–8; many pianoforte pieces, arrangements, &c.; and also many vocal duets and songs. He compiled a ‘Handbook for the Pianoforte,’ which he dedicated to Liszt. As a composer he is now forgotten. He left a ‘History of Music’ in manuscript.

[Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, iv. 343; Musical World, 14 Aug. 1845, p. 385; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ii. 440, 520, iii. 114, 205, 245, 294; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

F. G. E.