highly interesting collection of works, both sacred, and sæcular, by Taverner, and other English Composers. No second collection appeared, till 1571, when a volume, of much inferior merit, was printed, for Thomas Whythorne, by John Daye. In 1588, William Byrd issued his first book of 'Psalmes, Sonets, and Songs of sadnes and pietie': and, in the same year, Nicholas Yonge—a merchant, who obtained a rich store of Madrigals from his Italian correspondents—published, under the title of Musica Transalpina, a volume containing more than fifty pieces, selected from the works of Noe Faigneant, Rinaldo del Mel, Giaches de Wert, Cornelius Verdonck, Palestrina, Luca Marenzio, and several more of the best Flemish and Italian Composers of the day. In the preface to this volume, the word, 'Madrigal,' is used, (to the best of our belief), for the first time, in England. The compositions selected by the worthy merchant are all adapted to English verses, in which, though the diction is sometimes sufficiently uncouth, the rhythm and sense of the original Italian are often carefully imitated: and, to the zeal of their enthusiastic collector, who had them constantly sung at his house, we are mainly indebted for the favour with which, from that time forth, the Madrigal was universally received in this country. Nine years later, Yonge ventured upon a second collection. Meanwhile, Byrd had already published another volume of original compositions, under the title of 'Songs of sundrie natures,' in 1589; in 1590, Thomas Watson had edited a 'Sett of Italian Madrigalls Englished, not to the sense of the originall dittie, but after the affection of the Noate'; and, between 1593, and 1595, Thomas Morley had produced two books of Canzonets, one, of 'Madrigals to foure Voyces,' and one of Ballets. The number of publications, therefore, was increasing rapidly.
By this time, the Madrigal had fairly established itself as a national institution: and English Composers did all that in them lay, to bring it to perfection. The most noted among them seemed never tired of producing new works. Simultaneously with Yonge's second collection—that is, in 1597—appeared two original sets of great importance, one, by Thomas Weelkes, the other, by George Kirbye. In the same year, Morley issued a third and fourth volume of Canzonets; and John Dowland delighted all Europe with his 'First Booke of Songes or Ayres of foure parts.' Wilbye's first book appeared in 1598, and Benet's in 1599. In 1601, Morley edited a famous volume, entitled, 'The Triumphes of Oriana,' containing Madrigals, for five and six Voices, by Michael Este, Weelkes, Benet, Hilton, Wilbye, and sixteen other Composers, besides himself. Michael Este published a volume of his own, in 1604, another in 1606, and a third, in 1610. Bateson's two books were issued in 1604, and 1618. Dowland's second book appeared in 1600, his third, in 1603, and his 'Pilgrim's Solace,' in 1612. Thomas Ford printed two booksof 'Musicke of sundrie Kinds,' in 1607, and Wilbye his second book in 1609; Orlando Gibbons produced his first (and only) volume of 'Madrigals and Motets,' in 1612; and, even as late as 1630—exactly a century after the publication of Wynkyn de Worde's curious volume—a book of 'Mottects' (all, really, Madrigals, though with instrumental accompaniments ad libitum) was given to the world by Martin Pierson.
Rich collections of these rare old editions—including many volumes which we have not space to particularise—are preserved in the Libraries of the British Museum, the Sacred Harmonic Society, and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge: and many of the most popular Madrigals have been reprinted, in a modern form, over and over again. It is difficult to decide upon the comparative merits of particular works, where the general standard of excellence is so high, and the number so great. An endless variety of styles is observable, even to the most superficial enquirer: but careful analysis proves this to be rather the result of individual feeling, than an index to the prevailing taste at any given epoch. The history of the School, therefore, must be comprised, like our notice of the Venetian Madrigal, within the limits of a single Period: and we shall best illustrate it by selecting a few typical works for separate criticism.
Byrd's Madrigals are sometimes constructed upon a very elaborate plan, and abound in points of ingenious and delightful imitation, as do those of Weelkes, Cobbold, and Wilbye, and their contemporaries, Kirbye, and Bateson—witness the following beautiful passage from the last-named Composer's contribution to 'The Triumphes of Oriana'—
- It is much to be regretted that so few modern editors think it worth while to mention the source whence their reprints are derived; or even to give the original names of Flemish or Italian Madrigals. Still more deeply to be deplored is the mischievous system of transposition, now so common, which frequently destroys all trace of the composer's intention, and always prevents the tyro from ascertaining the Mode in which a given Madrigal is written. As Madrigals must always be sung without accompaniment, transposition, in the book, is wholly unmeaning, and helps no one.