Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Felton, William (1713-1769)

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668153Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 18 — Felton, William (1713-1769)1889Louisa M. Middleton

FELTON, WILLIAM (1713–1769), composer, B.A. St. John's, Cambridge, 1738, M.A. 1745, was vicar-choral in the choir of Hereford 1741, custos of the vicars-choral 1769, and chaplain to the Princess Dowager of Wales (Augusta of Saxe-Gotha). At a period when, according to Burney, players of the harpsichord had but little choice of good music, several out of Felton's three sets of six concertos for organ or harpsichord and of his eight suits of easy lessons became the ‘pride of every incipient player in town and country.’ Felton's ground (or gavotte), indeed, had attained great popularity; it was introduced in Ciampi's opera ‘Bertoldo’ in 1672, but ‘was become too common and vulgar for an opera audience.’ The concertos were modelled on those of Handel, whom the amateur held in great admiration. Burney relates that Handel was asked, while in the barber's hands, to allow the mention of his name in the list of subscribers to Felton's ‘Second Set.’ He started up in a fury, and, with his face still in a lather, cried with great vehemence: ‘Tamn yourseluf and go to der teiffel—a barson make concerto! why he no make sarmon!’ and Brown, the leader of the queen's band, who had had the temerity to prefer the modest request, fled from Handel's presence. No record, in fact, appears of sermons by the composer Felton, but, besides writing for the harpsichord and other instruments, on which he was a skilled performer, he is said to have composed the glee ‘Fill, fill, fill the glass,’ and to have acted as steward at the Three Choir Festivals of Hereford, 1744, and Gloucester, 1745. He died 6 Dec. 1769, and was buried in Hereford Cathedral.

[Grove's Dict. i. 511; Cambridge Graduates, 1659–1823, p. 166; Havergal's Fasti Herefordenses, 1869, p. 99; Gent. Mag. xxxix. 608; Burney's Hist. 1789, iv. 664; Account of Performances, 1785, p. 32 a; Duncumb's Hist. of Herefordshire, 1804, i. 561; London daily papers, December 1769; Felton's Musical Works in Brit. Mus. Library.]

L. M. M.