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which have made you the most able and unbiaffed patriot. A vigorous imagination, an extenfive apprehenfion, and a ready judgement, have distinguished you in all the illuftrious parts of administration, in a reign attended with such difficulties, that the fame talents, without the fame quickness in the poffeffion of them, would have been incapable of conquering. The natural fuccefs of fuch abilities, has advanced you to a feat in that illuftrious houfe*, where you were received by a crowd of your relations. Great as you are in your honours, and perfonal qualities, I know you will forgive an humble neighbour the vanity of pretending to a place in your friendship, and fubfcribing himself, my Lord, your Lordship's moft obliged, and most devoted fervant, RICHARD STEELE.
To Mr. POPE.
July 26, 1711.
WROTE to you the other day, and hope you have received my letter. This is for the fame end, to know whether you are at leisure to help Mr. Clayton, that is, me, to fome words for mufick against winter.
* He was made a peer in 1700.
+ In the SPECTATOR, No 258, Dec. 26, 1711, is a letter, figned, "Thomas Clayton, Nicolino Haym, and Charles Dieu
part," announcing the plan of their intended concerts in Yorkbuildings, and the terms of the fubfcription.
Your answer to me at Will's will be a great favour to, Sir, your moft obedient, humble fervant, RICHARD STEELE.
R. CLAYTON and I defire you, as foon as you can conveniently, to alter this poem *for mufic, preferving as many of Dryden's words and verfes as you can. It is to be performed by a voice well fkilled in recitative; but you understand all these matters much bet ter than your affectionate humble fervant, RICHARD STEELE,
"Alexander's Feaft, or the Power of Mufic, an Ode for St. "Cecilia's Day." Agreeably to this requeft, Mr. Hughes made feveral alterations in that admired ode. See his "Poems," vol. II. p. 71. But what his opinion was of the music both of that and of "Sappho's Ode by Philips," will appear from the following letter. The honour of doing juftice to Dryden, as well as to Milton, was referved for Handel, who compofed "Alexander's “Feast” in 1736.-" It is to be regretted," fays Dr. Warton, in his Effay on Pope,' "that Mr. Handel has not fet to mufic "Pope's Ode' as well as Dryden's." But fhould it not be ob ferved, that that excellent poet, as well as judge of mufic, Mr. Hughes, was the first who altered "Alexander's Feaft" for mufic? 66 Monthly Review," vol. XIV. p. 549.-This note is from Mr. Duncombe's collection of "Letters by feveral eminent Perfons deceased, &c." vol. I. p. 65.
Mr. HUGHES to Mr. STEELE
. INCE you have asked my opinion about the mufic, I take it for granted you would have me give it you; and therefore I will shew how faithfully I intend always to obey you, in doing it with a freedom, which I would be loth to use to one for whom I had less friendship, and in whofe candour and integrity I did not think myself safe.
I fhall therefore, without taking any hints from others, juft give you fome few obfervations which have occurred to me as well as I could judge upon the first hearing,
That which feems to me to ftrike most are the prelude-bafes, fome of which are very well fancied; but I am afraid they are in themselves too long, especially when repeated; for prelude-bafes are only to begin the subject of the air, and do not fhew any compofition (which confifts in the union of parts) fo that, if they are not artfully worked afterwards with the voicepart, they are no proof of fkill, but only of in
The fymphonies in many places seem to me perplexed, and not made to purfue any fubject or point.
The laft air of Sappho begins too chearfully for the sense of the words. As well as I can guefs, without seeing the score, it is in D sharp, from which it varies (in another movement of time) into B flat 3d, and so ends, without returning to the fame key either flat or fharp. This being one continued air (though in two movements of time), let fome mafter be asked, Whether it is allowable (I am fure it is not ufual) to begin an air in one key sharp, and end it in a different key flat? For though the paffage is natural, the clofing fo is, I believe, always difallowed.
The overture of Alexander ought to be great and noble; inftead of which, I find only a hurry of the inftruments, not proper (in my poor opinion) and without any defign, or fugue, and, I am afraid, perplexed and irregular in the compofition, as far as I have any ideas or experience. Enquire this of better judgements.
The duet of Bacchus is chearful, and has a good effect; but that beginning "Cupid, Pho"bus," &c. I cannot think fhews'any art, and is, in effect, no more than a fingle air. Nothing fhews both genius and learning more than this fort of compofition, the chief beauty of which confits in giving each voice different points, and making thofe points work together, and interchange regularly and furprisingly, or one point following itself in both the voices, in a
kind of canon, as it is called. These artful. neffes, when well executed, give infinite delight to the ear; but that which I have mentioned is not formed after thofe defigns, but where the voices join, they move exactly together in plain counterpoint, which fhews little more than. a fingle air.
I think the words in general naturally enough expreffed, and, in fome places, pathetically: but, because you feem to think this the whole mystery of setting, I take this opportunity to affure you, that it is as poffible to exprefs words naturally and pathetically in very faulty compofition, as it is to hit a likenefs in a bad picture. If the mufic in fcore, without the words, does not prove itself by the rules of compofition, which relates to the harmony and motion of different notes at the fame time, the notes in the finging parts will not fuffice, though they exprefs the words ever fo naturally. This is properly the art of compofition, in which there is room to fhew admirable fkill, abftracted from the words; and in which the rules for the union of founds are a kind of fyntaxis, from which no one is allowed to err. I do not apply this last particular to any thing, but only to give you a general idea of what is compofition. Yet, upon the whole, as far as I am able to judge, the mufic of Sappho and Alexander, though in fome places agrecable, will not pleafe mafters.