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W. CROTCH, Mus. D.
PROFESSOR OF MUSIC IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD.
DR. CROTCH, the subject of the present memoir, was born at Norwich, July 5, 1775. His father, by trade a carpenter, an ingenious mechanic, and of good reputation, having a passion for music, of which, however, he had no knowledge, undertook to build an organ, on which, as soon as it would speak, he learned to play two or three common tunes, such as, God Save the King; Let Ambition Fire thy Mind; and the Easter Hymn; with which, and such chords as were pleasing to his ear, he used to try the perfection of his instrument.
About Christmas, 1776, when Master Crotch was only a year and a half old, he discovered a great inclination for music, by leaving even his food to attend to it, when the organ was playing; and about Midsummer, 1777, he would touch the key-note of his particular favourite tunes, in order to persuade his father to play them. Soon after this, as he was unable to name these tunes, he would play the first two or three notes of them, when he thought the key-note did not sufficiently explain which he wished to have played. But according to his mother's account, it seems to have been in consequence of his having heard the superior performance of Mrs. Lulman, a musical lady, who came to try his father's organ, and who not only played on it, but sung to her own accompanyment, that he first attempted to play a tune
himself: for, the same evening, after her departure, the child cried and was so peevish that his mother was wholly unable to appease him. At length, passing through the diningroom, he screamed and struggled violently to go to the organ, in which, when he was indulged, he eagerly bent down the keys with his little fists, as other children usually do, after finding themselves able to produce a noise, which pleases them more than the artificial performance of real melody or harmony by others. The next day, however, being left, while his mother went out, in the dining-room with his brother, a youth about fourteen years old, he would not let him rest till he blew the bellows of the organ, while he sat on his knee and bent down the keys, at first promiscuously, but presently, with one hand, he played enough of God Save the King to awaken the curiosity of his father, who, being in a garret, which was his workshop, hastened down stairs to inform himself who was playing this tune upon the organ. When he found it was the child, he could hardly believe what he heard and saw. At this time, he was exactly two years and three weeks old, as appears by the register, in the parish of St. George, Colgate, Norwich. Although he shewed such a decided inclination for music, he could no more he prevailed on to play by persuasion than a bird to sing.
When his mother returned, the father, with a look that at once implied joy, wonder, and mystery, desired her to go up stairs with him, as he had something curious to shew her. She obeyed, and was as much surprised as the father, on hearing the child play the first part of God Save the King. The next day he made himself master of the treble of the second part; and the day after, he attempted the base, which he performed nearly correct in every particular, except the note immediately before the close, which being an octave below the preceding sonnd, was out of the reach of his little hand. In the beginning of November, 1777, he played both the treble and base of Let Ambition Fire thy Mind; an old tune, how called, Hope, thou Nurse of Young Desire.
Upon the parents' relating this extraordinary circumstance to their neighbours, they were laughed at, and advised not to mention it, as such a marvellous account would only expose them to ridicule. However, a few days afterwards, Mr. Crotch being ill, and unable to go out to work, Mr. Paul, a masterweaver, by whom he was employed, passing accidentally by the door, and hearing the organ, fancied that he had been deceived, and that Crotch had stayed at home, in order to divert himself on his favourite instrument. Fully prepossessed with this idea, he entered the house, and, suddenly opening the dining-room door, saw the child playing on the organ, while his brother was blowing the bellows. Mr. Paul thought the performance so extraordinary, that he immediately brought two or three of the neighbours to hear it, who propagating the news, a crowd of nearly a hundred persons came the next day to hear the young performer; and, on the following days, a still greater number flocked to the house from all quarters of the city; till, at length, the child's parents were obliged to limit his exhibition to certain days and hours, in order to lessen his fatigue, and exempt themselves from the inconvenience of constant attendance on the curi ous multitude.
When the father first carried him to the Cathedral, he used to cry the instant he heard the loud organ,
which, being so much more powerful than that to which he was accusbefore he could bear, without distomed at home, he was some time covering pain, occasioned, perhaps, by the extreme delicacy of his -ear, and irritability of his nerves.
discovered a genius and inclination Before he was four years old, he music; for, whenever he was not at for drawing, nearly as strong as for an instrument, he usually employed hand, houses, churches, ships, or himself in sketching, with his left animals, in his rude and wild manner, with chalk, on the floor, or on lowed to scrawl. whatever plain surface he was al
The first voluntary he heard with house by Mr. Mully, a music-master; attention was performed at his father's child seeming to play on the organ and as soon as he was gone, the in a wild and different manner from what his mother was accustomed to doing? And he replied, "I am playhear, she asked him, what he was ing the gentleman's fine things;" but she was unable to judge of the resemblance. However, when Mr. Mully came a few days after, and was asked, whether the child had remembered any of the passages in affirmitive. This happened when he his voluntary, he replied in the old. About this time, such was the was only two years and four months rapid progress he had made in judg ing of the agreement of sounds, that he played the Easter Hymn with full harmony; and in the last two or three bars of Hallelujah, where the chords with both hands, by which same sound is sustained, he played the parts were multiplied to six, reaching, on account of the shortwhich he had great difficulty in ness of his fingers. From, this pein retaining any tune that pleased riod his memory was very accurate him; and being present at a concert, where a band of gentlemen per formers played the overture in Rodelinda, he was so delighted with the minuet, that the next morning he hummed part of it in bed; and by noon, without any further assist ance, played the whole on the organ, -At four years old, his ear for mudistinguish at a great distance from, sic was so astonishing, that he could any instrument, and out of sight of
the keys, any note that was struck, whether A. B. C., &c. In this, Dr. Burney used repeatedly to try him, and never once found him mistaken, even in the half notes: a circumstance the more extraordinary, as many practitioners, and good performers, are unable to distinguish by the ear, at the Opera or elsewhere, in what key any air or piece is executed. At this early age, when he was tired of playing on an instrument, and his musical faculties appeared wholly blanted, he could be provoked to attention, even though engaged in any new amusement, by a wrong note being struck in the melody of any well-known tune; and, if he stood by the instrument when such a note was designedly struck, he would instantly put down the right, in whatever key the air was playing.
Before he was six years old, this infant prodigy taught himself to play on the violin, which he used to hold as a violincello; he could also play on the common flute and sticcado pastorello. At three years old he played on the organ in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, while sitting on his mother's knee; and at this time a print of him playing on the organ was engraved by Sanders, at Norwich.
As a painter in oil colours, Dr. Crotch possesses very considerable talents, although he exercises them only for amusement. A picture, painted by him as a companion of one by Salvator Rosa, which was in the possession of the late Charles Cowper Esq., of the Albany, fully evinced his talents; it was so excellent in colouring, harmony, and effect, that, although entirely dif ferent in the subject, no one standing in the middle of the room could tell which picture was painted by Salvator Rosa, unless he had been previously informed. Dr. Crotch also drew, and etched in soft ground, twelve views taken from the environs of Oxford, which are acknowledged to he very picturesque and spirited performances
The extraordinary musical talent, exhibited by Dr. Crotch in infancy, was matured by study and practise, so as afterwards he was enabled to attain the highest rank in his profession; and, as a professor of music,
he still continues to benefit society. He went to Oxford in 1788, and in 1790, was elected Organist to Christ Church; in 1797, he was honoured with the Professorship of Music; and in the same year succeeded Dr. Hayes, as Organist to St. John College and University Church. During his residence in this city, he married Miss Bliss, the daughter of a respectable bookseller there; by whom he has living one son, who is now a fellow of New College; and two daughters, who are twin sisters, and are both unmarried. Dr. Crotch left the University of Oxford, and came to London in 1805, since which period, he has every season deliververed lectures on music, either at the Royal Institution in Albemarle Street, or at the Surrey Institution near Westminster Bridge, with the exception of one season, during which, he lectured at the London Institution.
Among the friends of Dr. Crotch, we must not omit to mention the late celebrated Dr. Burney, and Charles Cooper Esq., Dr. Jowett, of Cambridge, and the late Rev. John Owen, Secretary to the Bible Society. The Rev. A. C. Schomberg, fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, was his earliest and best patron.
Among the numerous musical compositions, published by Dr. Crotch, we cannot help mentioning two which more particularly advanced his reputation; "Palestine, a Sacred Oratorio;" and " Specimens of Various kinds of Music," in 3 vols. folio.. He is also author of a work on the Elements of Musical Composition.
The early age, at which Dr. Crotch discovered a most astonishing musical genius, is without a parellel in the history of eminent musicians : and perhaps none come so near his precosity of musical talent, as the two Westleys and Mozart. The WESTLEYS discovered, during early infancy, very uncommon faculties for the practice of music. CHARLES, the eldest, at two years and threequarters old, surprised his father by playing a tune on the harpsichord readily, and in just time; soon after he played several, whatever his mother sang, or whatever he heard in the street. SAMUEL, the youngest,
though he was three years old before he aimed at a tune, yet, by con stantly hearing his brother practice, and being accustomed to good music and masterly execution, before he was six years old, arrived at such a knowledge in music, that his extempore performances on keyed instruments, like MOZART's, was so masterly in point of invention, modulation, and accuracy of execution, as to surpass in many particulars, the attainments of most professors at any period of their lives.
Indeed, Mozart, when a little more than four years old, is said to have been not only capable of executing lessons on his favourite instrument, the harpsichord, but to have composed some in an easy style and taste, which were much approved; and SAMUEL WESTLEY, be fore he could write was a composer, and mentally set the airs of several
oratorios, which he retained in memory till he was eight years old, and then wrote them down.
Here the difference of education appeared; young CROTCH, left to nature, was not only without instructions, but good models of imitation; while MOZART and SAMUEL WESTLEY, on the contrary, may be said to have been nursed in good music; for as the latter had his brother's excellent performances to stimulate attention, and feed his ear with harmony; the German infant, living in the house of his father, an eminent professor, and an elder sister, a neat player on the harpsichord, and constantly practising compositions of the first class for that instrument, had every advantage of situation and culture, joined to the profusion of natural endowments.
"Twas not the wild fancy of youth's giddy day,
Where my soul may her transports of feeling impart,
At midnight's still hour, when all nature's at rest,
Save Night's silver Queen, who, from East to the West,
In her course still proclaims a First Cause.
Ah! then, while the moon's sober beams chace the gloom
From my cell, be my heart not less pure:
Till my soul, wing'd with hopes for choice blessings to come, Takes her flight, no more ills to endure.
As the study of Antiquities illustrates the page of History, a few gleanings, from the extensive field of British Antiquities, will have a tendency to elucidate some obscure portion of the History of our own country.
Among the Antiquities of our native land, the Tumulus is not the least attracting. In various parts of the country, the eye of the traveller is arrested by its solitary appearance. And the person unacquainted with it is doubtful whether the protuberance be natural or artificial, In Derbyshire and Wiltshire, Tumuli of various shapes and dimensions present themselves to our view. That which is commonly termed Silbury Hill, near Marlborough, is of a gigantic size, being 560 feet in diameter at the base; 170 feet in perpendicular height, and 105 feet in diameter at the top. The smallest of them are about 12 feet in diameter at the base. Those upon the Yorkshire Wolds, which will be described in a future paper, are of the latter size.
The word Tumulus is purely Latin, and signifies "a heap of earth." When more than one is meant, the Latin plural Tumuli, is used. The word more frequently denotes a sepulchre, and is used in this sense by the Roman Poets and Historians.
Compelled to die at the enemies tomb under the lofty walls of Troy.
Ovid. Met. xiv.
I shall be buried in the grave.
Tacitus, in his Annals, Lib. II. 7. uses it to signify the burying place of those who fell in battle:
"Tumulum tamen nuper Varianis legionibus structum-disjecerant."
They destroyed the monument which had lately been raised for the troops of Varius.
For the same purpose has the Tumulus generally been raised in our own country. It is by some, called a Barrow; and when composed of loose stones, a Cairn; which is common in the northern
parts of the island; and whose bulk has been increased by the passenger, who manifested his respect for the dead, by adding his stone to the number.
The Tumulus or Barrow is of ancient date, and extensive use. the early ages of Egypt and Greece, they were piled to commemorate the names and actions of the illustrious dead; and were the magnificeut Pyramid in embryo. They are found in the wilds of America, as well as in the formerly wealthy kingdoms of Asia, and civilized states of Europe. Of the manner of their formation by the ancients, we have an account in the Iliad.
"Where yet the embers glow, Wide o'er the pile, the sable wine 'they throw;
And deep subsides the ashy heap "below.
Next, the white bones, his sad companions place,
With tears, collected in a golden vase. The sacred relics to the tent they bore; The urn, a veil of linen cover'd o'er. That done, they bid the sepulchre aspire,
And cast the deep foundations round
High in the midst they heap the sweling bed
Of rising earth, memorial of the dead." Book xxiii. 310.