Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/320

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.



��virginal is, in fact, of the same shape as his clavichord, and has the same arrangement of keyboard (from the bass clef note F), but the soundboard of the clavichord is narrow ; the jack- action of the virginal is derived from the psaltery plectrum, while the tangent of the clavichord comes from the monochord bridge. Virdung con- fesses he knows nothing of the invention of either, by whom or where. If the 'proverb' quoted by liimbault, as formerly inscribed on a wall of the Manor House of Leckingfield, Yorkshire, be as old as the time of Henry the Seventh (1485-1509), it contains a reference earlier than Virdung. Rim- bault's ' History of the Pianoforte ' is a store- house of citations, and we borrow from them with due acknowledgment of the source and their great value. This proverb reads,

A slac strynge in a Virginall soundithe not aright, It doth abide no wrestinge it is so loose and light ; The sound-horde crasede, forsith the instrumente, Throw misgovernance, to make notes which was not his intente.

The house is destroyed, but the inscriptions are preserved in a MS. at the British Museum. According to Prsetorius, who wrote early in the 1 7th century, Virginal was then the name of the quadrangular spinet in England and in the Netherlands. In John Minshen's ' Ductor in Lin- guas/ 161 7, against 'Virginalls' we read, 'Instru- mentum Musicum proprie Virginuin ... so called because virgins and maidens play on them. Latin, Clavicymbalum, Cymbaleum Virginaeum.' Other lexicographers follow. Most to the purpose is Blount, Glossographia,' 1656 : * Virginal (virgi- nalis), maidenly, virginlike, hence the name of that musical instrument called Virginals, because maids and virgins do most commonly play on them.' But another reason may be given for the name ; that keyed stringed instruments were used to accompany the hymn ' Angelus ad Virginem,' as similar instruments withput keys, the psaltery, for instance, had been before them. (See Chaucer's ' Miller's Tale.') From Henry the Seventh's time to nearly the close of the 1 7th century, 'Virginal' in England included all quilled keyboard instruments, the harpsi- chord and trapeze-shaped spinet, as well as the rectangular virginal of Virdung and Prsetorius. For instance, in the ' Privy Purse Expenses of Henry the Eighth (Sir N. H. Nicholas editor ; London, 1827) there is an entry: '1530 (April) Item the vj daye paied to William Lewes for ii payer of Virginalls in one coffer with iiii stoppes, brought to Grenwiche iii li ... and for a little payer of Virginalls brought to the More, &c.' This two pair of Virginals in one case with four stops looks very like a double harpsichord. Again, in the inventory of the same king's musical instruments, compiled by Philip Van Wilder, a Dutch lute-player in the royal service, the manuscript is in the British Museum ' a payre of new long virginalls made harp fashion of Cipres, with keys of Ivory, etc.* Still later, in 1638, from 'Original unpublished papers illustrative of the life of Sir Peter Rubens ' (London, 1859), we fin( l a correspondence be-


tween Sir F. Windebanck, private secretary to Charles the First, and the painter Gerbier, relat- ing to a Ruckers ' virginal ' the latter had under- taken to procure : ' Cest une double queue ainsi nomme'e [i.e. 'virginal'] ay ant quatre registres et le clavier placd au bout.' There can be no doubt about either of these ; although called virginals, they were at the same time double harpsichords. Huyghens (Correspondance, Jonkbloet et Land ; Leyden, 1882) shows how invariably the clavi- cimbal or espinette was ' virginal ' in England. Henry the Eighth played well, according to con- temporary authority, on the virginal, and he had a virginal player attached to the Court, one John Heywood, who died at Mechlin about I 565. 1 The same Heywood was one of Edward the Sixth's three virginal players. Mary, Eliza- beth and James the First retained as many. Queen Mary is said to have equalled, if not sur- passed, Queen Elizabeth in music, playing the regals and lute, as well as the virginals. One Cowts used to repair her virginals (Privy Purse expenses of the Princess Mary, Sir F. Madden, ed. ; London, 1831). Queen Elizabeth's Vir- ginal Book was in MS., and the first engraved music for this tribe of instruments, including harpsichords, was the 'PABTHENIA, the first musicke that ever was printed for the Vir- ginals '; London, 1611. After the restoration of the Stuarts, we find in different publications for the harpsichord and virginal, the instruments clearly separated.

John Playford, in ' Musick's Handmaid/ dis- tinguishes them, and in 1672, ' Introduction to the skill of Musick,' names Mr. Stephen Keen as a maker of 'Harpsycons and Virginals.' John Loosemore, Adam Leversidge, and Thomas White appear to have been at that time foremost English makers ; they adopted the Italian coffer- shaped instrument, combining with it Flemish fashions in painting. Pepys, describing (Sept. 2, 1666) the flight of the citizens at the time of the Great Fire, says, 'I observed that hardly one lighter or boat in three that had the goods of a house in, but there was a paire of virginals in it.' The plural, or rather dual, in organs, regals, virginals, with the following 'pair,' signifies a graduation or sequence, as now-a-days a pair of stairs.' In spite of the interesting statement of Pepys the destruction of virginals by this terrible catastrophe must have been very great, for very few musical instruments are found in this country anterior in date to the Great Fire. In Queen Anne's reign we hear no more of the virginal ; the ' spin- net ' is the favourite domestic instrument.

' Queen Elizabeth's Virginal,' which bears her royal arms and is the property of the Gresley family, a familiar object in the Tudor room of the Historic Loan Collection of the Inventions Exhibition, 1885, is really a pentagonal spinet, evidently of Italian make. With reference to Stephen Keene, a beautiful spinet of his make (spinetta traversa), belonging to Sir George

i Mr. W. H. J. Weale owns a medal struck for Michael Mercator of Venloo In 1539. Mercator was maker of Virginals to Floris d'EgmonV Cardinal Wolsey, and Henry VIII. He was born 1491, died 1544.

�� �