Hilton, John (d.1657) (DNB00)

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HILTON, JOHN (d. 1657), musical composer, contributed madrigals to ‘The Triumphs of Oriana,’ 1601, in the index to which he is assigned the degree of Mus.B., though no further proof is forthcoming of his having taken this degree before 1626. The close of his madrigal, ‘Fair Oriana, Beauty's Queen,’ shows such boldness in the use of the device called ‘nota cambiata’ that it is difficult to imagine it to be the work of a tiro in composition. Thomas Oliphant edited two madrigals by Hilton, ‘One April Morn’ and ‘Smooth-flowing Stream,’ which he stated to exist in a manuscript of the date 1610. On 1 July 1626 Hilton took the degree of Mus.B. at Cambridge, being enrolled as a member of Trinity College. His exercise is mentioned in the grace according to the usual form, but there is no record of its performance. His first publication on his own account, ‘Ayres, or Fa La's for Three Voyces,’ appeared in 1627. This work, which he calls ‘these vnripe First-fruits of my Labours,’ is dedicated to Dr. William Heather, apparently his master. Prefatory verses by Edward Lake and John Rice respectively seem to allude to the composer's sufferings at the hands of unfriendly critics. To some such cause the irregular intervals at which he published his compositions may be due. In 1628 he was made parish clerk and organist of St. Margaret's, Westminster, receiving for the former office a salary of 6l. 13s. 4d., or ten marks a year. It is assumed that on the suppression of the organs in 1644 he retained the post of clerk. On the death of William Lawes in 1645, Hilton wrote an elegy for three voices, ‘Bound by the neere conjunction of our Soules,’ which appears in the ‘Choice Psalms’ of Henry and William Lawes, published in 1648. Four years later the celebrated collection, ‘Catch that catch can,’ appeared, containing twelve canons and thirty catches and rounds by Hilton himself, together with similar compositions by twenty-one other composers (2nd edition, issued after Hilton's death, in 1658). In Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 11608, among seventeen compositions by Hilton for one or more voices, some in the form of dialogues, appear his latest known works, two songs dated 1656, and entitled respectively ‘Love is the sun itself and 'When first I gas'd on Cielia's face.' He died in 1657, and was buried in St. Margaret's, Westminster, on 21 March.

Besides the works mentioned, a service by Hilton is printed in Rimbault's `Cathedral Music,' and the organ parts of another (evening) service and of six anthems are extant. Many catches and rounds by him are still sung: among them, 'Come, follow,' 'Come, let us all a-maying go,' and 'Turn, Amaryllis,' are the most familiar. Two more songs with accompaniment for lute, written in tablature, are in Egerton MS. 2013, and a composition for three viols is in Add. MSS. 29283-5. J. Warren, in the Musical Antiquarian Society's edition of the `Fa-las,' p.3, note, mentions that a book belonging to him, copied in 1682, contains `eight fancies,' which are probably by a descendant or relation of Hilton. A portrait of Hilton is in the Music School, Oxford, and is engraved in Hawkins's `History,' chap. cxii. The inscription on the portrait gives the correct date of the Cambridge degree, but states the composer's age to be fifty at the time of painting (1649), which is clearly wrong.

[Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 740; Pref. to Musical Antiquarian Society's edition of Hilton's 'Fa-las;' Hawkins's Hist. ed. 1853, &c., p. 678. (The statement that Hilton was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey, and that an anthem was sung in the church before tho corpse was brought out for internment, is certainly erronious in some part, and may be wholly wrong.) Cambridge University Grace Book. Z., p. 119; and Subscriptiones. i, 236. where his autograph acknowledgment is found.]

J. A. F. M.