Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Blitheman, William

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BLITHEMAN or BLYTHEMAN, WILLIAM (d. 1591), was an organist and gentleman of the chapel under Queen Elizabeth. Wood, in his 'Fasti' (ed. Bliss, i. 235), states that Dr. John Bull [q. v.] had been trained up under an excellent master named Blithman, organist of Queen Elizabeth's Chappel, who died much lamented in 1591; 'and in a note by Bishop Tanner to this passage it is stated that 'John Blithman belonged to Christ Church quire; seems to have been master of the choristers 1564.' Whether Tanner's John Blitheman was the same as the subject of this notice cannot be ascertained. Blitheman died on Whit Sunday 1591, and was buried in St. Nicholas Olave. His epitaph, which was on 'an engraven plate in the north wall of the chancel,' is preserved in Stow (Survey Book, iii. 211), and runs as follows:—

Here Blitheman lies, a worthy wight,
who feared God above;
A Friend to all, a Foe to none,
whom Rich and Poore did love.
Of Princes Chappell, Gentleman,
unto his dying Day;
Whom all took great delight to heare
him on the Organs play.
Whose passing Skill in Musickes Art,
a Scholar left behinde;
John Bull (by name) his Master's veine
expressing in each kinde.
But nothing here continues long,
nor resting Place can haye;
His Soule departed hence to Heaven,
his Body here in Grave.

Of Blitheman's music a few interesting pieces are in existence. The manuscript known as 'Virginal Book' (Add. MS. 80513) has several of his compositions. Other specimens are in Additional MSS. 29384, 31513. and 17801-5, and Hawkins printed a 'meane' by him (History of Music, ed. 1853, Appendix). All these examples show that he was a master of his art, and that Bull, whom (according to Stow) he 'spared neither time nor labour' to teach, owed much to his influence.

[Old Cheque book of the Chapel Royal (ed. Rimbault), 5, 196; Ward's Lives of the Gresham Professors (1740); Hawkins's History of Music (ed. 1853), 480; authorities quoted above.]

W. B. S.