Composer to the Regency

This Blog has often addressed the burgeoning need for access to the arts during the Regency period. Muzio Clementi (1752 – 1832) was the man who brought the music to the age.

The father of the piano

Born in Italy, as a young man he came to England at the behest of his patron, Sir Peter Beckford, to develop his musical talent and entertain the Lord Mayor’s country household. His public performances as a pianist and organist were quite the treat for a provincial audience far removed from London. It was perhaps inevitable that Dorset would not hold him forever, and upon his release from obligations to Sir Peter, he was on his way to the Metropolis, and fame.

He was to become the musician to the Regency.

Late Georgian England was already attracting many accomplished composers from the Continent, including Joseph Haydn and Mozart. Upon his arrival in London, Clementi began composing, and his talent aroused great interest among the ton, and notice among the great masters.

Mozart: ‘Clementi is a charlatan, like all Italians.’ Clementi: ‘Until (Mozart) I had never heard anyone play with such spirit and grace.’

His talent took him to the Continent as well. Among his first performances was the famous competition between himself and Mozart, before the Imperial court of Austria. But unlike poor Salieri, Clementi held his own against the better-remembered Mozart, astonishing the emperor and those in attendance. Indeed, the man later known as Amadeus gave the ultimate compliment to his rival, using Clementi’s beginning motif to his Sonata in B-flat Major, No. 2 in the famous overture to The Magic Flute.

Back in England, Clementi’s influence was considerable, finding its way into music rooms and parlors, figuring largely in lessons on the pianoforte. His compositions were considered most challenging, being intricate and often difficult to play, despite their ‘simplicity, brilliancy and originality.’

“The celebrated John Christian Bach (son of John Sebastian Bach’s second marriage) spoke of (Clementi’s Opera 2) in the highest terms; but although one of the most able players of the time, he would not attempt its performance….his works ‘could only be performed by the author or the devil himself.’ ”

— Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, vol 2, 1820

Composing and performing were not particularly lucrative. Clementi supplemented his income by publishing the works of other composers, in addition to his own. He used his connections with notable musicians to gain exclusive rights to publish their compositions, fulfilling increasing demand for sheet music, both for piano and flute.

Beethoven made his nephew play these exclusively. My piano teacher employed the same philosophy with me.

From his publishing company’s Appendix to their Catalog of 1816:

Clementi & Co., having established a Correspondence with several of the most respectable Continental Publishers, they have entered into such arrangements as will enable them to supply their friends and the public, at a short notice, with Correct Editions of the most esteemed Productions of the Foreign Musical Press.

Having a robust musical library was just as important as having a large and varied collection of books. Scattered sheets of music, however messy, was a mark of distinction for any household.

Clementi was the exclusive publisher of Beethoven’s compositions sold in Britain.

Clementi also had a piano factory, building instruments that incorporated his designs to improve their performance. Innovations in case construction allowed a pianoforte to retain its pitch and tone longer, so that tuning was not so frequently required. Clementi also patented a process that allowed strings to be attached directly to the soundboard, lengthening tone and increasing resonance.

‘..old-fashioned square parlor…the proper air of confusion by a grand piano-forte and a harp..’ Persuasion, by Jane Austen
photo via bestbrodipianos.co.uk

Unfortunately the manufacturing plant was destroyed by fire in 1807, from a stove flue that ignited surrounding woodwork. The engines for putting out the fire arrived fairly quickly, but were unable to stop the destruction because, as the Athenaeum of 1807 reports,’no water could be procured for nearly an hour after.’

His obituary summarizes his remarkable career with special tribute paid to Clementi’s humanity, his kindness to others*, his capacity for feeling. Noted with sadness is the composer’s suffering over the death of his first wife in childbirth, and his son’s premature demise from a pistol’s accidental discharge.

At his funeral:

“The cheerful noon-sun shone through the cathedral windows when the procession began to move…it was the illumination most befitting so clear and natural a spirit as Clementi.”

— Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol 102, Part 1 (1832)

In Austen’s novel Persuasion, Captain Harville and Anne discuss ‘the richness of the present age.” It is perhaps no small surprise that the father of the piano should have inhabited the Age of the Regency, and adorned its music.

* He was known to have sponsored a subscription fund for the widow of fellow composer John Gildon, so that she could live in comfort, and even start a business. Ackermann’s Repository (vol 10, July 1813)

 

 

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A Bridge for the Regency

Cover from an older edition of Heyer's Regency Buck

This is the cover of my copy. Judith’s impetuous race to Brighton is priceless.

“Highgate afforded the travellers their first glimpse of London. As the chaise topped the rise and began the descent on the southern side, the view spread itself before Miss Taverner’s wondering eyes.”

— Regency Buck, by Georgette Heyer (1935)

Until Regency times, the great northern road approaching London climbed a very steep hill, rising some 450 feet above the Thames. The summit at Highgate village certainly afforded a splendid view.

Today’s view of London from Highgate, no longer the hamlet that Heyer’s heroine passed through.

Highgate had once been a hermitage, under the protection of the Bishop of London. The hermit, however, was not entirely occupied with remaining aloof from society. The great northern road passing just by his door, he was in a great position to collect tolls. For the bishop.

Highgate hill became something more than just an obstacle in the Georgian era. Pack animals had long since been replaced by wagons and carriages. Increasing speed and traffic, combined with the slope’s incline:

“..occasioned the loss of many lives, both of men and cattle.”

— Ackermann’s Repository (July, 1813)

The village of Highgate served as an emergency way station, receiving many broken bodies and carriages from accidents upon the hill. Exhausted horses and impatient drivers, with London just in sight, made conditions ripe for skidding off the steep shoulder of the road, overturning conveyances and flinging passengers downhill with great force.

Parliament considered remedying the situation on several occasions. One surgeon residing in Highgate reported his observations during government proceedings on the matter:

“..during the preceding three years, he had had under his care two persons with compound fractures of the legs, who suffered amputation; two simple fractures; a boy who had his skull fractured, and died a few hours after..”

–Monthly Magazine (July, 1810)

 

1812 J. Hill print depicting construction of the Highgate Archway
— Credit British Library via Science Photo Library

It was decided to build a tunnel through the hill. Unfortunately this solution met with disaster, for the whole caved in during construction. The only other idea was to cut the road through the hill. To prevent the excavated hillside from falling into the road, John Nash was engaged to design a brick archway. The resulting monument, of great size and majesty, became a well-known sight in England.

Too, the great northern road became much more efficient–and profitable. To pass beneath Highgate Archway, one paid four pence per horse, and one penny per person on foot (Ackermann’s Repository, July 1813).

Meanwhile, a bridge was placed over the whole, so that traffic on Hornsey Lane could stop and view London from the elegant balustrades:

“From the path-way of the bridge, there is an excellent view of the surrounding country, and of many buildings in the capital.”

–A New Picture of England and Wales, Samuel Leigh (1820)

 

The completed Archway. Augustus Charles Pugin, the artist, was a draftsman for Nash. He later illustrated guide books.

 

Bonomi – Architect to the Regency

” ‘I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them.’ ”

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (1811)

So says Mr. Robert Ferrers, a secondary character in Austen’s novel. His oft-quoted ode, following a discourse on Gray’s toothpick cases, forms a particularly odious lecture given to Elinor, the heroine. Odious because he clearly imagines his patronizing speech will inspire her to feel fortunate in her much-reduced circumstances after his sister forces her and her family to move out of their home, Norland Park.

“..a cottage… calculated for the convenience of persons of moderate income.” Designs for Elegant Cottages and Small Villas, E. Gyffard (1806)

He positively presses Elinor on the advantages of building a cottage, going so far as to relate to her, in his self-important way, that he advised no less a personage than Lord Courtland on the matter.

” ‘Lord Courtland came to me the other day on purpose to ask my advice, and laid before me three different plans of Bonomi’s. I was to decide on the best of them.’ “

 

Rear view of cottage showing servants’ entrance to the kitchen and extension of a veranda

Joseph (born Giuseppe) Bonomi came to England in 1767 at age twenty-eight, to work as a draftsman at the invitation of the Adam brothers, innovators of Neo-classicism in Georgian design and architecture. Bonomi also worked with Thomas Leverton, the famed English architect who had the distinction of executing a triumphal arch commemorating American independence for a British nobleman.

From these connections, Bonomi took his native foundation in Roman antiquity to design country residences for the ton. He was known for adapting classicism to suit practical needs. As an example, classicism demands an even number of columns, but Bonomi would made their number odd, if that suited the proportion and function of a building. He took the classical portico and extended it, to protect arriving and departing carriages from inclement weather.

The Royal Institute of British Architects calls Bonomi the creator of the porte-cochère.

Roseneath House, designed by Bonomi for the Duke of Argyll. Note the fifth column, put there so folks wouldn’t confuse the carriage way with a grand entrance. — from Papers Read at the Royal Institute of British Architects (1869)

A Bonomi-designed country house was the sign of marked distinction during the Regency. Even his drawings were on display at the Royal Academy. Yet Robert Ferrers destroyed Lord Courtland’s set, boasting:

” ‘My dear Courtland,’ said I, immediately throwing them all into the fire, ‘do not adopt either of them, but by all means build a cottage.’ And that, I fancy, will be the end of it.”

One must surely choose a cottage over a mansion, after such a masterful demonstration of preference (and destruction!) We do not learn of Lord Courtland’s eventual course of action, but Robert Ferrers lives on as perhaps the most-quoted person on the desirability of cottage-living.

I daresay his brilliance has quite cast poor Elinor in the shade. Her reaction to his conceit, ever sublime, can scarcely be remembered:

“Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.”

 

 

Regency-Era Electrical Resuscitation

Jane Austen’s Character Falls at Lyme Regis

During the Regency era, electrical shock was beginning to be used at various times to revive persons knocked unconscious from blows to the head. I’m not sure this would have benefited Louisa Musgrove, but it brings up interesting notions about the advances of resuscitation in the late Georgian era.

“…but no, he reasoned and talked in vain, she smiled and said, “I am determined I will:” he put out his hands; she was too precipitate by half a second, she fell on the pavement on the Lower Cobb, and was taken up lifeless!” — Persuasion, Jane Austen

Persuasion’s Anne Elliot is my favorite of all Jane Austen’s characters–mostly because she is quite useful in an emergency. When calm is required, she remains practical and wholly free from the hysterical outbursts that characterize her sister’s behavior. Such excellent qualities are demonstrated not only when her young nephew suffers a fall from a tree, but after Louisa Musgrove’s dreadful fall, as she is knocked out cold.

Dr. James Curry notes that falls often stun the victim into a state of apparent lifelessness. The heart stops and does not restart until the brain is roused sufficiently so as to direct it to begin beating again. Many times this occurs without intervention; however, stimulation must be employed when the victim does not rouse on her own:

Stimulants of every kind have this tendency in a greater or less degree, but none so much as Electricity.”

Observations on Apparent Death from Drowning, Hanging, Suffocation: &c. by James Curry, MD (1815)

Dr. Curry cites two examples of children rendered unconscious from falls down steps. Fortunately, in both cases, neighbors with the right apparatus were able to apply electricity to the chests of each boy, with the happy result of reviving both. Apparently assembling a machine to generate mild electric shocks was something that could be done with readily available materials, but only by knowledgeable persons:

“..jar of twenty-four inches, or thirty inches coated surface, and the discharging electrometer placed about one-third or one-half of an inch from the knob of the jar, or from the prime conductor; accordingly as it is applied from one to the other, in the machine used.”

Dr. Curry goes on to relate that from this machine discharging rods may be connected (and he goes into some detail about their assembly) which when applied to the body can be made to pass electricity through it.

The effect of reading Persuasion is much the same–electrifying the heart with such simple stimulation.

Collecting fossils at Lyme Regis, a subject visited previously in this blog, regarding those Paleontologists to the Regency – photo by John Cummings via Wikicommons

 

Regency – era Valentine

clustered red hearts

Valentine exchanges in the early nineteenth century took a good deal of thought and effort. No pre-printed cards with mass-produced verse, thank you very much. Instead, the Valentine greeting must be penned from scratch, the sentiment entirely the sender’s own.

But for those who require inspiration, and perhaps even a good push, there is the New And Complete Valentine Writer, by B. Mace (1806).

The Reluctant Widow 1950 film adapted from Georgette Heyer's novel of the same title

The author worked in New Round Court, in the Strand. I like a bit of information about the business end of London, and New Round Court was apparently an area of shops adjacent to houses of the lesser gentry erected on church lands after the Dissolution. One victualler there in 1781 served on the City of Westminster’s Coroner’s Jury for Inquests into Suspicious Deaths (LondonLives.org). Matthias Darly was an engraver and printmaker there in the late eighteenth century, at No. 39 (British Museum).

From his address in New Round Court, Mace provided a variety of Valentines composed for a variety of senders, including those of certain occupations such as printing and fishmongering (!) As a bonus, answers to such declarations are included, specifically tailored responses to notes sent by masons, turners, malters, seamen and even stay-makers.

“His film scores in Britain were playfully eclectic in style, alternating between haunting romanticism, catchy melodies, and occasional stark modernist touches.” Encyclopedia of British Film

One in particular appeals to the female who might, at first blush, appear unapproachable. Surprisingly, the offering of love was not at all modest, but bold, with patent desire to go all the way:

And though Death twice has broken your marriage chain,

If you have patience to be bound again;

Your lover here profest, behold here I stand,

And dare you to join in the marriage band.

And the answer? It seems a bit obscure. I can’t decide if she will be his Valentine or not:

No need that you should take me for a wife,

As well without you I can lead my life;

So keep your courage for some new essay,

may it not suit you in the needful day;

Your love rejected for the Valentine,

Just as you please it shall be yours or mine.

What do you think?

Regency-era Infant Suffocation

A bonnet can’t hurt, can it?

Recently, there have been reports of a troubling rise of infant suffocation in bed, even as the rate of SIDS has been decreasing. Researching this post, I’ve just learned that infant sleep positioners are no longer recommended, having been discredited by the FDA. 

In the Regency, infant suffocation was a real problem:

“Sometimes from accident but oftener from culpable inattention, young children are not infrequently smothered in beds and cradles.”

Observations on Apparent Death from Drowning, Hanging, Suffocation: and an Account of the Means to be Employed for Recovery. To which are Added, the Treatment Proper in Cases of Poison; with Cautions and Suggestions Respecting Circumstances of Sudden Danger (whew!) by James Curry M.D. (1815)

Dr. Curry is careful to distinguish infant smothering from “bruising by overlaying,” a condition caused when a child is crushed by others, often the parents, they sleep with.

Suffocation occurs when there is no other air to consume in the vacuum created by bedclothing. Yet there may be time to save the child, Dr. Curry notes, if the body is still warm. As in the case of drowning, respiration by artificial means may be implemented. Also, the body should be exposed to a current of fresh air and sprinkled with water, as a stimulus.

Dr. Curry reserves special condemnation of parents and cats (!) who contribute to the dangers of infant suffocation, noting:

“..a very improper habit of cats lying in the bed or cradle of young children; as these animals, from their love of Warmth, almost always lay themselves across the Child’s neck, and often either cover the Mouth with their bodies, or press the bedclothes over it, so as to impede or stop the breathing.”

 

sleeping girl, pouncing cat
I think we’re fine here, but it’s still advised to keep the cat out of the cradle.

 

Regency-Era CPR

“The trouble with writing history comes from suspending knowledge in what we know now, to what was known then.”

— an author of historical fiction

The understanding between absolute and apparent death was just beginning in the Georgian period. In his remarkable volume, Observations on Apparent Death (1815), Dr. James Curry informs the reader that though the victim appears lifeless, there is still a chance she may be saved.

All persons should know how to properly resuscitate a victim of drowning, he declares, deploring the general state of ignorance in this regard:

“..the practice of holding up the bodies of drowned persons by the heels. or rolling them over a cask (!) … is highly dangerous; as the violence attending it may even burst some of the Vessels which are already overcharged with blood, and thus convert what was only Suspended Animation, into Absolute and Permanent Death.”

“Thus it appears a pond of Water may prove an instrument of Slaughter.” –Thomas Rowlandson

In the case of suffocation, stimulating the lungs through artificial means was already a known procedure. In 1732, a collier was recovered from a coal pit not breathing. He had been overcome by fumes but was eventually revived by inflating his lungs. Various instruments could be used for this, but, as Dr. Curry complains, these are only in the possession of ‘medical men’ who know how to use them.

Instead, he urges readers to use whatever may be at hand about the house to artificially inflate the lungs–horns, air-filled bladders, even bellows. He advises the body be kept warm, the temples of the head rubbed with hartshorn, stomach stimulated by negus (awful stuff) and such efforts must be made for an extended period of time, if necessary.

He relates the heroism of Mrs. Page of Hornsey in this regard. With the assistance of her servants and an instructional card distributed by the Royal Humane Society,  she resuscitated a girl that had drowned in the New River.

Tipton’s Mrs. Caddick also managed to do the same, reviving a boy who drowned in a nearby pond. In this case, it took nearly two and a half hours to coax life back into the child’s lifeless body.

 

A receiving house for the purpose of rendering aid to drowned or injured persons in Hyde Park – erected by the Royal Humane Society. Image via WellcomeImages.org

Today’s post is yet another example of the advantages afforded by rising literacy during the Regency. Mrs. Page’s card highlights such a benefit–the Royal Humane Society is one of several institutions founded for the betterment of society, disseminating information to the masses on ways to revive victims of accidents, particularly drownings.

Dr. Curry dedicates his volume to George III, widely credited for sponsoring such endeavors:

“..(his) benevolence of heart, uniformly displayed throughout a long reign, has not only secured the lasting veneration of the wise and good..but the rare and enviable appellation of–A Patriot Sovereign, the Father of His People.”

 


George III: What of the colonies, Mr. Pitt?
Pitt: America is now a nation, sir.
George III: Is it? Well. We must try and get used to it. I have known stranger things. I once saw a sheep with five legs…