Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Arnold, Samuel

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ARNOLD, SAMUEL (1740–1802), musical composer, the son of Thomas Arnold, was born on 10 Aug. 1740. Through the patronage of the Princesses Amelia and Sophia he was admitted to the Chapel Royal, where he was educated under Gates and Nares; he is said also as a boy to have been noticed and advised by Handel. Before 1763 he was engaged by Beard as composer to Covent Garden, where in 1765 he brought out his opera, the 'Maid of the Mill,' the first of the long series of compilations from the works of other composers, which, by a judicious combination with a small amount of original work, sufficed to win him a considerable reputation as an operatic composer. Arnold became a member of the Royal Society of Musicians 4 March 1764 (Records of Roy. Soc. of Musicians). In 1767 he set Browne's ode, the 'Cure of Saul,' as an oratorio. This work achieved some success, and was followed by 'Abimelech,' the 'Resurrection,' and the 'Prodigal Son,' which were perfonned during Lent in 1768, 1773, and 1777 at Covent Garden and the Haymarket. In 1769 he took a lease of Marylebone Gardens,where he produced many operas and burlettas, amongst others Chatterton's 'Revenge;' but, owing to the dishonesty of one of his subordinates, during the three years of his tenancy he lost by the speculation a sum of nearly 10,000l. In 1773 the university of Oxford asked Arnold's permission to perform his oratorio, the 'Prodigal Son,' at the installation of Lord North as chancellor, and on the request being granted the honorary degree of Mus. Doc. was offered the composer. This was declined by Arnold, who preferred to take the degree in the ordinary manner, and accordingly composed as an exercise Hughes's ode on the Power of Music. On tendering this composition to the Oxford professor. Dr. Hayes, the latter returned it to Arnold unopened, with the remark that it was unnecessary to scrutinise an exercise composed by the composer of the 'Prodigal Son.' The accumulated degrees were conferred on him on 5 July 1773. In 1783 Arnold succeeded Nares as organist and composer to the Chapels Royal, and in the following year he was one of the sub-directors of the Handel commemoration. In 1786, at the request of George III, he undertook the editing of an issue of Handel's works, an edition which, though both incomplete and inaccurate, was for long the only one accessible to musicians. He was appointed conductor of the Academy of Ancient Music in 1789, and on the death of Stanley joined Linley in carrying on the oratorios at Drury Lane Theatre, On 24 Nov. 1790 'the Graduates' Meeting, a society of musical professors established in London,' was founded at a meeting at Dr. Arnold's house, 480, Strand. In the same year he published his valuable collection of cathedral music, the work by which he is now best remembered. Three years later he succeeded Dr. Cooke as organist to Westminster Abbey. A few years afterwards he fell from his library steps, breaking a tendon of his leg and sustaining internal injuries which eventually resulted in his death, which took place on Friday, 22 Oct. 1802, at his house, 22, Duke Street, Westminster. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on 29 Oct. His grave is in the north aisle, next to that of Purcell, whose leaden coffin was exposed to view at the time of the funeral. Arnold married in 1771 Mary Anne, the daughter of Dr. Archibald Xapier, who survived him, and by whom he had a son and two daughters. The son was afterwards well known as the manager of the Lyceum Theatre. The eldest daughter, Caroline Mary, died on 13 Dec. 1795, and was buried in Westminster Abbey youngest, Marianne, was married to Mr. William Ayrton, second son of Dr. Ayrton. Dr. Arnold, besides being an industrious musician, wrote several political squibs in the tory papers. His generosity and good-fellowship rendered him very popular in his day, but as a composer his merits were inferior to many of his contemporaries, and little, if any, of his music has survived.

[The Harmonicon for 1830; Busby's Concert-room Anecdotes, 1825; Parke's Musical Memoirs, 1830; Chester's Registers of Westminster Abbey, 1876; Add. MS. 27693.]

W. B. S.