A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Arne, Michael

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ARNE, Michael, the son (Burney says the natural son) of Dr. Arne, was born in 1741. He was brought on the stage at an early age by his aunt, Mrs. Cibber, who took great pains in teaching him the part of the Page in Otway's tragedy, 'The Orphan'; and his father was equally assiduous in qualifying him as a singer, and brought him out in that capacity at Marylebone Gardens in 1751. But neither acting nor singing was his vocation. At ten or eleven years of age he had acquired such skill on the harpsichord as to be able to execute, with unusual correctness and rapidity, the lessons of Handel and Scarlatti, and some years later he manifested some ability as a composer. In 'The Flow'ret, a new Collection of English Songs, by Master Arne,' is a song called 'The Highland Laddie,' which attained great popularity, and was in 1755 adapted by Linley to the words 'Ah, sure a pair were never seen,' in Sheridan's opera, 'The Duenna.' In 1763 M. Arne appeared as a dramatic composer with 'The Fairy Tale.' In 1764 he composed, in conjunction with Battishill, the music for the opera of 'Almena,' which was withdrawn after a few nights, not from want of merit in the music, but owing to the dulness of the dialogue. On Nov. 5, 1766, Arne married Miss Elizabeth Wright, a vocalist of some repute. In 1767 he wrote the music for Garrick's dramatic romance, 'Cymon,' which was highly successful, and is his best work. Soon afterwards he gave up his profession and devoted himself to the study of chemistry, and built a laboratory at Chelsea, where he attempted the discovery of the philosopher's stone. Foiled in his object, and ruined by the expenses, he returned to the pursuit of music, and wrote the music for several dramatic pieces—amongst them O'Keefe's ' Positive Man,' in which is the well-known song, 'Sweet Poll of Plymouth'—and numerous songs for Vauxhall and the other public gardens. In 1779 he was engaged as director of the music at the Dublin Theatre, and in 1784 and subsequent years had the direction of some of the Lenten Oratorios at the London theatres. Michael Arne's dramatic compositions were 'The Fairy Tale,' 1763; 'Hymen,' 1764; 'Almena,' 1764; 'Cymon,' 1767; 'The Fathers,' 1778; 'The Belle's Stratagem,' 1780; 'The Choice of Harlequin,' 1781; 'The Positive Man,' 1782; 'Tristram Shandy,' 1783. He died about 1806 [App. p.523 "Jan. 14, 1786"].

[ W. H. H. ]