« PreviousContinue »
At Yokat, Persia, on his return to England, the Rev. Henry Martyn, D. B. fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge. This distinguished scholar took his Bachelor's degree in 1801, then under the age of 20, and attained the high honour of Senior Wrangler. His classical, as well as mathematical attainments, were very considerable. But he also possessed still higher attainments—those of genuine piety and active benevolence. Under the influence of zeal for the best interests of mankind, he embarked for India as Chaplain to the Company, in the summer of 1805, and at the several stations assigned to him, devoted himself so diligently to some of the languages of the East, that he superintended translations of the New Testament into the Persian and Hindostanee languages; and, with the assistance of Sabat, a learned Arabian of rank, and a convert from Mahometanism, made considerable progress in an Arabic translation. With a view to render the Persian translation more perfect, he made an arduous journey to Shiraz, where he resided for some time. For a similar purpose he resolved to visit Bagdad; but being compelled to take a circuitous route by Tebriz, near the Caspian Sea, his health, which had long materially suffered, became at that place so impaired, that he resolved to return by Constantinople to his native country. On reaching Tokat, about 600 miles from Tebriz, and 250 from Constantinople, he found himself unable to proceed further; and, on the 16th of October last, it pleased an all-wise Providence to terminate his important labours. Thus, at the early age of 31, the Church of England has lost a distinguished ornament, and the British and Foreign Bible Society a most valuable associate.
At Paris, at a very advanced age, H. Larcher, the translator of Herodotus, and patriarch of French literature.
Mr. Wm. Browne, the celebrated traveller. It is with the greatest concern that we have to announce to the public the death of this most enterprising traveller. The same thirst after knowledge which originally urged him to follow the Nile to its distant source, the same undaunted spirit which supported him during a long captivity in Darfour, lately prompted him to undertake a journey to the Caspian sea, whence it was his intention to have advanced to Samarcand and 'Bochara, and that tract of country which we are accustomed to call Tartary. He had proceeded as far as Tebriz, but the barbarous hand of assasins prevented the further execution of his project. Shortly after leaving that place, in July last, in company with two servants, he was attacked by a party of robbers, who allowed his attendants to escape, but as it was unfortunately known that Mr. Browne was in possession of some gold, he was secreted by these villains, and no news could afterwards be heard of him till some days had passed, when bis body was found near the road, so shockingly mangled as to leave no doubt about the cause of his most untimely end. His particular friends must be too much grieved for the loss of such talents and such virtues as Mr. Browne most certainly possessed, to receive any consolation which we might be disposed to offer. The literary world will, however, derive some comparative satisfaction in knowing, that the valuable information he collected, during his travels in Anatolia and Persia, had, owing to the dangers which invariably attend all Europeans in those countries, been consigned from time to time into the hands of confidential persons.
Musical Biography; or, Memoirs of the Lives and Wrilings of
the most emineni Composers and Writers who have flourished in the different countries of Europe during the three last Centuries. In two Volumes, octavo. pp. 800.
(From the British Review.) That which is merely an amusement, if it occupies the atten. tion of the greater part of the community, can never be unworthy of notice; and viewing it in this light only, we should consider music as a subject demanding our attention. But its pretensions are much higher; and when we reflect that from the earliest ages it has been cultivated by every nation with which we are ac. quainted ; that it has almost always formed a part of religious worship and liberal education ; and that its principles are more immediately derived from nature than those of any other science, (for whatever may be the refinement of music, it must derive its beauty from the fundamental principles of harinony, which we derive from simple vibration ;) we are inclined to give it a place more respectable than that which a mere amusement can claim, and regard it as intrinsically worthy of our attention.
It is for this reason that we now introduce to our readers “Musical Biography ;" not as a complete history of the science, for that it does not profess to be, but as presenting a compen
Vol. IV. New Series. 56
dious view of the rise and progress of music. With respect to Dr. Burney's history, although we believe that no one who ever read it wished that it had been less, yet we fear that its magnitude bas deterred many from its perusal. In fact, the history of a science so universally cultivated as music must necessarily be somewhat voluminous : unless it is minute and particular it is worth nothing, and tends to confusion rather than to information; and in the case of music particularly, is incapable of compression, because so many of the materials from which it must be compiled are not easily to be met with or understood, and for that reason a closer examination and more copious extracts and explanations must be given.
The work before us is, however, of no terrific magnitude, and contains, in short accounts of its professors, a chronological history of music from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the present time. These are arranged under the heads of their respective countries, and in general some account of their works is appended. It is impossible not to see how much the author is indebted to Dr. Burney; a debt, however, which he acknowledges, and with which, to a certain extent, (though not perhaps to that to which our author has carried it,) we should find no fault, because we can point out no better source of information. Of course, this remark can only apply to the period which preceded the publica. tion of. Dr. Burney's last volume. Since that time our author has not had so good a guide; and although we do not mean to blame him for not having done wbat he has not professed to do, yet 'we cannot help regretting the want of a general history of music from that time. A period of twenty-four years has now elapsed since the fourth volume of Dr. Burney's history was published, as eventful, perhaps, a8 any which has preceded it. To say nothing inore, during that time Haydn, Mozart, Piccini, and Gretry, have closed their labours, and materials of every description are not wanting. We know not whether we may ever expect a fifth volume from the pen of Dr. Burney, nor to whom else we can look for a continuation of his work, which shall be worthy of what has been already published.
We are also particularly glad to introduce the work before us to our readers, because it is so seldom that we meet with publications on music which are likely to be generally interesting. Almost all the works on that subject, however acceptable or useful they may be to the student, have as few charms for the general reader, or even for most musical amateurs, as a German dictionary, or a table of logarithms. The truth is, that comparatively few of those who profess a love for music give themselves any trouble about the matter except as to the practice; and there are many who conceive that the pleasure which they derive from it would be diminished by a knowledge of its principles, and who, congratulating themselves upon their possessing that mysterious faculty which is called having an ear for music,” look with indifference, if not with contempt, upon those means of acquiring knowledge which they deem it unnecessary to pursue. This phrase, which is so commonly used, and which is supposed to be very significant, appears to us to have little or no meaning. It is generally applied to those who are capable of distinguishing the intervals of melody and the consonances of harmony, in contradistinction to those whose organs are so defective that they cannot judge correctly of either. That such a distinction exists we do not dispute; but we are inclined to think, that what is termed a want of ear arises, in most cases, from a want of practice. That this correctness of ear does arise from practice and habit will appear if we consider how many persons, who, when they began could play out of iune without being at all conscious of it, have afterwards become sufficiently correct to join in a concert; and yet how different their accuracy is from that fastidiousness of ear which is agonized by the imperfection of an eschaton, and can only be acquired by long study of the scale; and we believe that half the amateur performers on the piano-forte in this country, who would feel much aggrieved if the accuracy of their ears were called in question, have no idea that their instrument is imperfect, or that there is such a word as temperament. All we mean by this is to reduce the mysterious faculty of intuitive musical enjoyment to its proper standard, and to place music in this respect on a footing with other sciences. It does not appear to us why it is more correct or rational to say, that an uninstructed person who derives satisfaction from hearing music has “an ear for music,” than it would be to say, that the countryman who is amused by gazing at a sign-post has an eye for painting. He derives pleasure from the object which is presented to him; he is pleased with the colouring and imitation; he is in some degree qualified to judge of the execution; and his eye would be offended by any gross deviation from the rules of perspective or proportion. This will be generally allowed him; and we should be content if those who have an ear for music did not assume more than a proportionate degree of knowledge with respect to that science. “But the misfortune is, that he who has an ear for music” is supposed to have “a natural taste for music," and must support his pretensions by criticism; and cannot condescend to acquire the necessary qualifications for decision, because he conceives that nature has furnished him with a more infallible mode of judging. Thus his judgment is formed, not from any knowledge of the science, but by the union of common report with his own “natural taste.” There are some composers whose works are stamped with such universal approbation that he cannot refuse his applause; while there are others whose compositions find their way to his heart at once; and he sits down contentedly, and confidently believing that the Messiah and the Battle of Prague are the finest compositions in the world, and that Haydn and Braham are the greatest composers that ever lived.
To return, however, to the work before us. We shall extract, for the amusement of our readers, the account which is given of Mr. Thomas Mace. We have before observed that the author is under obligations to Dr. Burney, and the assistance which he has derived from his work is apparent in the following article ; but we extract the account which he has given, because it is more full than Dr. Burney's, and because the original work of Mr. Mace is now become scarce. He appears to have been a good-natured old enthusiast in music; and of his eccentricity the extract from his work will enable our readers to judge, while it may, perhaps, have the further effect of reconciling them to the present state of parochial psalmody, by showing them what it was in his day. We must, however, caution them not to form too unfavourable an opinion of the perfection at which the art of playing on keyed instruments had arrived in his time, from the facility with which this old gentleman seemed to think that a parish might be made to “swarm or abound with organists." The instrumental compositions which remain of Dr. Bull. (who died the same year that Mace was born) and his contemporaries prove, at least on the natural supposition that they were able to perform what they composed, that they were not deficient in hand, however they might want what some may think the more necessary qualifications of taste, elegance, and expression.
“ Thomas Mace, one of the clerks of Trinity College, Cambridge, is distinguished among the writers on music by a work entitled, “ Music Monument, or a Remembrancer of the best practical Music, both Divine and Civil, that has ever been known to have been in the World;" published in folio, in 1676.
“He was born in the year 1613; but under whom he was educated, or by what means he became possessed of so much skill in the science of music as to be able to furnish matter for the above work, he has no where informed us. We may collect from it that he was enthusiastically fond of music, and of a devout and serious disposition, though cheerful and good-humoured even under the infirmities of age and the pressure of misfortuves. His knowledge of music seems to have been chiefly confined to the practice of the lute, (his favouite instrument,) and to so much of the principles of the science as enabled him to compose for it.
“ As to the above book, a singular vein of dry humour runs through it, which is far from being disgusting, since it exbibits a lively portrait