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

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CHILD, WILLIAM (1606?–1697), musician, born at Bristol in 1606 or 1607, was educated as a chorister under Elway Bevin, and on 8 July 1631 took the degree of Mus. Bac. at Oxford, where his name was entered at Christ Church. On 19 April 1630 he was elected a lay clerk of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, and shortly after he seems to have acted as organist jointly with Nathaniel Giles. On 26 July 1632 a stipend known as the exhibition of St. Anthony was assigned to him, and at this date he is referred to in the chapter records as ‘organista.’ About this time he is said to have been a pointed one of the organists at the Chapel Royal, Whitehall. On 4 April 1634 it was resolved by the dean and chapter of St. George’s Chapel that since he had for some time fulfilled the duties of both organists, he should in future enljoy the stipend of both. Child had presumably taken Giles’s duty as well as his own; Giles died in 1633-4, and from the time of his death there has only been a single organist at the chapel. Child was already known as a composer, for John Playford (Introduction to the Skill of Musick, ed. 1683) says that Charles I ‘often appointed the service and anthem himself, especially that sharp service composed by Dr. William Child.' In 1643, the whole establishment of St. George's Chapel was expelled. It is said that during the rebellion Child retired to a small farm, where he wrote many services and anthems, among which were several, such as ‘O Lord, grant the king a long life,’ expressive of his loyalty to the royalist cause. At the Restoration, Child, with the other organists of the royal chapels, Chistopher Gibbons and Edward Low, was present at the coronation of Charles II (23 April 1661), and on 4 July of the same year he was appointed composer to the king, in the place of Alfonso and Henry Ferabosco, deceased. His salary in this post was 40l. per annum, besides an allowance for livery. He also held the post. of chanter at the Chapel Royal. On 8 July 1663, Child proceeded Mus. Doc. at Oxford; his exercise, an anthem, was performed in St. Mary's Church on the 13th of the same month. On 21 Dec. 1663 Pepys found Captain Cooke, Child, and others practising an anthem for the king’s chapel, and on 26 Feb. 1665–6 records how on a visit to Windsor with Lord Sandwich they called on Mr. Child, who took them into the chapel and ‘had this anthem and the great service sung extraordinary, only to entertain us.’ Shortly after the Restoration the dean and canons of St. George's recovered the arrears of their stipends due since they had been expelled. It was said that these sums amounted to between 7,000l. and 8,000l. apiece. The minor canons and clerks also made application for arrears due to them, but were unsuccessful in obtaining anything, and for four years the whole establishment of the chapel seems to have been in a constant state of discontent. In 1666 an augmentation of stipends was granted. and a deed was drawn up in settlement of all disputed claims. Dr. Child was one of the signatories of this document. It has always been stated that after this settlement he showed his gratitude by paving the choir of the chapel in fulfilment of a conditional promise made by him while the dispute was pending. But a document in the chapter records shows that this is incorrect. This manuscript (written only twenty years after Child’s death) states, on the authority of a Dr. Wickart, ‘that ye Ld Clarendon paved the floor all about the altar in our chapel, and that the occasion of Dr. Child ye organists paving the rest of the Choir in like manner was this: Dr. Child having been organist for some years to the king's chapel in K[ing] Ch[arles] 2nds time had great arrears of his salary due to him, to the value of about 500l., which he and some of our canons discoursing of, Dr. Child slited [i.e. slighted], and said he would be glad if anybody would give him 5l. and some bottles of wine for; which the canons accepted of, and accordingly had articles made hand and seal. After this King James 2 coming to the crown, and paid off his B[rothe]rs arrears; wth much affecting Dr. Child, and he repining at, the canons generously released his bargain, on condition of his paving the body of the choir wth marble, wch was accordingly done, as is com̃emorated on his grave-stone.’ At the coronation of James II, Child walked in the procession in his academical robes, as the father of the Chapel Royal, and he appeared in a similar capacity at the coronation of William and Mary. In May 1690 his name occurs among a list. of the chapel of St. George's drawn up for the purpose of assessment under an act of Parliament for raising money by poll. In this he is assessed at one shilling, and ‘for 300l. in ready money and debts’ at 1l. 10.s. He died at Windsor, in the ninety-first year of his age, 23 March 1696–7. This date is recorded on his tombstone, which is still in the north aisle of St. George’s Chapel, though within the last five years it has been moved a few yards further west from its original position. The date of his death given in the ‘Cheque Book of the Chapel Royal' is 24 March. By his will he bequeathed 50l. to the corporation of Windsor for charitable purposes; he had previously given 20l. towards building the town hall. Child published in 1639 a setting of twenty anthems, the words taken from the Psalms. These were reprinted in 1650, and again in 1650 with a changed title. Other compositions by him occur in contemporary collections, and several of his anthems and services in Royce and Arnold's collections and in Stafford Smith's ‘Musica Antiqua.’ Manuscript. works are to be found in the British Museum, the Fitzwilliam Collection, Cambridge (where are twenty-three anthems in Blow's autograph), the Peterhouse Collection, Cambridge. the Music School and Christ Church Collections, Oxford, and at Canterbury, York, Lichfield, and Chichester cathedrals. Child forms a link between the old style of church music, of which Gibbons was the greatest master, and the school of the Restoration, of which Purcell is the great. representative. But musically he remained true to the school in which he was educated, and his compositions are remarkable for simplicity and melody. It is said that at one time the choir of St. George's ridiculed them on this account, whereupon Child wrote his celebrated service in D to prove to them that the simplicity of his music arose from design and not from incapability. There is a fine full-length portrait of Child in his academic robes in the Music School Collection at Oxford. The head from this was engraved by J. Caldwall for Hawkins’s ‘History of Music.'

[Grove’s Dict. of Music; Cheque Book of Chapel Royal, ed. Rimbault; State Papers, Charles II, Docquet Book, 1661-2; Pepys's Diary, ed. Braybrooke; Hawkins's History of Music, ed. 1853, 713; Wood’s Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 459, ii. 265; Musical Standard for 1884, 264; Boyce’s Cathedral Music, ed. Warren, i. 30; Arnold’s Cathedral Music, ed. 1790, i. 39; Add. MSS. 4847 (ix. 49, 86, 163), 31460; Child's tombstone; Act Books. &c. of St. George’s Chapel; Catalogues of Royal Coll. of Music, Music School, Fitzwilliam, Christ Church, and Peterhouse Collections.]

W. B. S.