A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Arne, Thomas Augustine

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ARNE, Thomas Augustine, Mus. Doc., was the son of an upholsterer in King Street, Covent Garden, where he was born on March 12 or May 28 (the precise date cannot be ascertained) [App. p.523 omits the words "or May … ascertained)"], 1710. He was educated at Eton, and being intended by his father for the profession of the law, was on leaving college placed in a solicitor's office for three years. But his love for music predominated, and instead of applying himself to the study of the law, he privately conveyed a spinet to his bedroom, and by muffling the strings with a handkerchief contrived to practice during the night undetected. He took lessons on the violin from Festing, and would occasionally borrow a livery in order to gain admission to the servant's gallery at the opera. He made such progress on the violin as to be able to lead a chamber band at the house of an amateur who gave private concerts. There he was one evening accidentally discovered by his father in the act of playing the first violin. After some fruitless efforts to induce his son to devote himself to the profession for which he had designed him, the father gave up the attempt as hopeless, and permitted the youth to follow the bent of his inclination. Being free to practice openly, Arne soon, by his skill on the violin, charmed the whole family, and finding that his sister, Susanna Maria (who afterwards as Mrs. Cibber became famous as a tragic actress) had an agreeable voice, he gave her such instructions as enabled her to appear in 1732 in Lampe's opera 'Amelia.' Her success was such as to induce her brother to re-set Addison's opera 'Rosamond,' [App. p.523 "see Clayton"] and his composition was produced at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, March 7, 1733, Miss Arne performing the heroine, and her younger brother the page. Soon afterwards Arne got Fielding's 'Tragedy of Tragedies' altered into the 'Opera of Operas,' and, setting it to music 'after the Italian manner,' brought it out at the Haymarket Theatre, his young brother representing the hero, Tom Thumb. In 1734 [App. p.523 "On Dec. 19, 1733"] he set for the same theatre a masque called 'Dido and Æneas,' which was performed (as then customary) with a harlequinade intermixed. In 1736 he composed some music for Aaron Hill's tragedy of 'Zara,' in which his sister made 'her first attempt as an actress.' In 1736 Arne married Cecilia, the eldest daughter of Charles Young, organist of Allhallows, Barking, a pupil of Geminiani and a singer of eminence, who was frequently engaged by Handel for his performances. In 1738 Arne was engaged to compose the music for Dr. Dalton's adaptation of Milton's 'Comus,' which was brought out at Drury Lane Theatre. This work fully established his reputation; its graceful and flowing melodies making an immediate and lasting impression. In 1740 he re-set Congreve's masque 'The Judgment of Paris,' which was performed at Drury Lane. On August 14 [App. p.523 "Aug. 1"] in the same year, to celebrate the anniversary of the accession of the House of Hanover, Thomson and Mallet's masque of 'Alfred,' with music by Arne, was performed, for the first time, in a temporary theatre in the garden of Cleifden, Bucks, then the residence of Frederick, Prince of Wales. The work contains some fine songs, but is more especially distinguished by its finale, the famous, patriotic song 'Rule Britannia,' a song which will continue to be heard as long as love of country animates the breasts of Englishmen. On Dec. 20, in the same year, Shakspere's 'As You Like It' being performed at Drury Lane Theatre, after having been laid aside for forty years, Arne gave to the world those beautiful settings of the songs 'Under the greenwood tree,' ' Blow, blow, thou winter wind,' and 'When daisies pied,' which seem to have become indissolubly allied to the poetry. After producing some minor pieces Arne went in 1742 with his wife to Dublin, where they remained until 1744. During his stay there he produced, besides his former pieces, his operas 'Britannia' and 'Eliza,' and his musical farce 'Thomas and Sally,' and also gave concerts with great success. On his return he was again engaged as composer at Drury Lane, and on the death of Gordon he succeeded him as leader of the band there. In 1745 Arne was engaged as composer to Vauxhall Gardens, and wrote for Mrs. Arne and Lowe the pastoral dialogue 'Colin and Phoebe,' which proved so successful that it was performed throughout the entire season. He held that engagement for many years, during which he composed for the Gardens, as well as for Ranelagh and Marylebone Gardens, an immense number of songs. On a revival of Shakspere's 'Tempest' in 1746 (at Drury Lane), Arne supplied new music for the masque and the song 'Where the Bee sucks,' a composition of perennial beauty. On March 12, 1755, he made his first essay in oratorio by the production of 'Abel,' in which the simple and beautiful melody known as the Hymn of Eve became exceedingly popular. On July 6, 1759, the University of Oxford created Arne Doctor of Music. In 1762 the Doctor ventured on the bold experiment of placing before an English audience an opera composed after the Italian manner, with recitative instead of spoken dialogue. For this purpose he selected the 'Artaserse' of Metastasio, which he himself translated into English. Departing to a great extent from his former style he crowded many of the airs with florid divisions, particularly those in the part of Mandane, which he composed for his pupil, Miss Brent. The other singers were Teuducci, Peretti, Beard, Mattocks, and Miss Thomas. The success of the work was decided, and 'Artaxerxes' retained possession of the stage for upwards of three-quarters of a century. The part of Mandane was long considered the touchstone of the powers of a soprano singer. The composer sold the copyright for sixty guineas, an insignificant amount compared with the sums which later composers obtained, but probably as much as the then more limited demand for music justified the publisher in giving. On Feb. 29, 1764, Dr. Arne produced his second oratorio, 'Judith,' at the chapel of the Lock Hospital, in Grosvenor Place, Pimlico, for the benefit of the charity. In 1765 he set Metastasio's opera 'Olimpiade,' in the original language, and had it performed at the King's Theatre in the Haymarket. It was represented however but twice, owing, it has been supposed, to some petty jealousy of an Englishman composing for an Italian theatre. In 1769 Dr. Arne set such portions of the ode, written by Garrick for the Shakspere jubilee at Stratford-on-Avon, as were intended to be sung, and some other incidental music for the same occasion. His last dramatic composition was the music for Mason's 'Caractacus' in 1776. Dr. Arne produced numerous glees, catches, and canons, seven of which obtained prizes at the Catch Club, and instrumental music of various kinds. He died March 5, 1778, and was buried at St. Paul's, Covent Garden. Shortly before his dissolution he sang with his dying breath a Hallelujah. Mrs. Arne survived her husband about seventeen years, dying in 1795. It must not be forgotten that Dr. Arne was the first introducer of female voices into oratorio choruses; which he did at Covent Garden Theatre on Feb. 26, 1773, in a performance of his own 'Judith.' Dr. Arne was author as well as composer of 'The Guardian outwitted,' 'The Rose,' 'The Contest of Beauty and Virtue,' and 'Phoebe at Court,' and the reputed author of 'Don Saverio' and 'The Cooper.' A fine portrait of him by Zoffany is in the possession of the Sacred Harmonic Society.

The following is a list of Dr. Arne's com- positions:—

Oratorios: Abel, 1755, Judith, 1764. Operas and other musical pieces: Rosamond, 1733. The Opera of Operas, or Tom Thumb the Great, 1733. Dido and Æneas, 1734. The Fall of Phaeton. 1736. Music in Zara, 1736. Cornus, 1738. The Judgement of Paris, 1740. Alfred, 1740. Songs in As You Like It, 1740. Songs in Twelfth Night, 1741. The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green. 1741. Songs in The Merchant of Venice, 1742. Britannia, 1743. Eliza, 1743. Thomas and Sally, 1743. The Temple of Dulness, 1745. King Pepin's Campaign, 1745. Music in The Tempest, 1746. Neptune and Amphitrite, 1740. Don Saverio, 1749. Dirge in Romeo and Juliet, 1750. The Prophetess, 1758. The Sultan, 1759. Artaxerxes, 1762. Love in a Village (chiefly compiled), 1762. The Birth of Hercules (not acted), 1763. The Guardian outwitted, 1764. Olimpiade (Italian opera), 1765. The Ladles' Frolic, 1770. Additions to Purcell's King Arthur, 1770. The Fairy Prince, 1771. The Cooper, 1772. Choruses in Mason's Elfrida, 1772. The Rose, 1773. The Contest of Beauty and Virtue, 1773. Achilles in Petticoats, 1773. May Day, 1775. Phoebe at Court, 1776. Music in Mason's Caractacus, 1776. Besides these Arne composed many incidental songs, etc. for other plays, as The Tender Husband, The Rehearsal, The Rival Queens, etc. Collections of songs under the following titles: Lyric Harmony, The Agreeable Musical Choice, Summer Amusement, The Winter's Amusements, The Syren, Vocal Melody, 1753, The Vocal Grove, 1774, and nearly twenty books of songs sung at Vauxhall, Ranelagh, and Marylebone Gardens. Glees, Cathches and Canons: thirteen glees, ten catches, and six canons, are printed in Warren's collections. Ode on Shakspere, 1769. Sonatas or lessons for the harpsichord. Organ Concertos. Overtures etc. for the orchestra. [App. p.523 adds "'The Trip to Portsmouth,' 'Reffley Spring' (1772), and music to Mason's tragedy of 'Elfrida.'"]

[ W. H. H. ]