« PreviousContinue »
dishonored.” Not only was it More's custom to sing in the church choir, but he used also to bear a cross in religious processions; and on being urged to mount horse when he followed the rood in Rogation week round the parish boundaries, he answered, “It beseemeth not the servant to follow his master prancing on a cockhorse, his master going on foot." Few incidents in Sir Thomas More’s remarkable career point more forcibly to the vast diñerence between the social manners of the sixteenth century and those of the present day. If Lord Chelmsford were to recreate himself with leading the choristers in Margaret Street, and after service were seen walking homewards in an ecclesiastical dress, it is more than probable that public opinion would declare him a fit companion for the lunatics of whose interests he has been made the official guardian. Society felt some surprise as well as gratification when Sir Roundell Palmer recently published his ‘Book of Praise ;' but if the Attorney General, instead of printing his select hymns had seen fit to exemplify their beauties with his own voice from the stall of a church-singer, the piety of his conduct would have scarcely reconciled Lord Palmerston to its dangerous cecentricity.
Amongst Elizabethan lawyers, Chief Justice Dyer was by no means singular for his love of music, though Whetstone's lines have given exceptional celebrity to his melodious proficiency
“For publique good, when care had cloid his minde,
The only joye, for to repose his sprights,
For he doth in musique much delight,
A conscience hath disposed to do most right:
Like James Dyer, Francis Bacon found music a plea
sant and salutary pastime, when he was fatigued by the noisy contentions of legal practice or by strenuous application to philosophic pursuits. A perfect master of the science of melody, Lord Bacon explained its laws with a clearness which has satisfied competent judges that he was familiar with the practice as well as the theories of harmony; but few passages of his works display more agreeably his personal delight and satisfaction in musica! exercise and investigation than that section of the ‘ Natural History,' wherein he says, " And besides I practice as I do advise; which is, after long inquiry of things immersed in matter, to interpose some subject which is immateriate or less materiate; such as this of sounds: to the end that the intellect may be rectified and become not partial."
A theorist as well as performer, the Lord Keeper Guilford enunciated his views regarding the principles of melody in ‘A Philosophical Essay of Musick, Directed to a Friend'-a treatise that was published without the author's name, by Martin, the printer to the Royal Society, in the year 1677, at which time the future keeper was Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. The merits of the tract are not great; but it displays the subtlety and whimsical quaintness of the musical lawyer, who performed on several instruments, was very vain of a feeble voice, and used to attribute much of his professional success to the constant study of music that marked every period of his life. “I have heard him say," Roger records, “that if he had not enabled himself by these. studies, and particular his practice of music upon his bass or lyra viol (which he used to touch lute-fashion upon his knee), to divert himself alone, he had never been a lawyer. His mind was so airy and volatile he could not have kept his chamber if he must needs be there, staked down purely to the drudgery of the law,
whether in study or practice; and yet upon such a leaden proposition, so painful to brisk spirits, all the success of the profession, regularly pursued, depends.” His first acquaintance with melodious art was made at Cambridge, where in his undergraduate days he took lessons on the viol. At this same period he “had the opportunity of practice so much in his grandfather's and father's families, where the entertainment of music in full concert was solemn and frequent, that he outdid all his teachers, and became one of the neatest violinists of his time.” Scarcely in consistence with this declaration of the Lord Keeper's proficiency on the violin is a later passage of the biography, where Roger says that his brother “ attempted the violin, being ambitious of the prime part in concert, but soon found that he began such a difficult art too late.” It is, however, certain that the eminent lawyer in the busiest passages of his laborious life found time for musical practice, and that besides his essay on music, he contributed to his favorite art several compositions which were performed in private concert
Sharing in the musical tastes of his family, Roger North, the biographer, was the friend who used to touch the harpsichord that stood at the door of the Lord Keeper's bed-chamber; and when political changes had extinguished his hopes of preferment, he found consolation in music and literature. Retiring to his seat in Norfolk, Roger fitted up a concert-room with instruments that roused the astonishment of country squires, and an organ that was extolled by critical professors for the sweetness of its tones. In that seclusion, where he lived to extreme old age, the lettered lawyer composed the greater part of those writings which have rendered him familiar to the present generation. Of his Memoirs of Musick,' readers are not accustomed to speak so gratefully as of his biographies ; but the curious sketch which Dr. Rimbault edited and for the first time published in 1846, is worthy of perusal, and will maintain a place on the shelves of literary collectors by the side of his brother's Essay.'
In that treatise Roger alludes to a contest which in the reigns of Charles II. and James II. agitated the musicians of London, divided the Templars into two hostile parties, and for a considerable time gave rise to quarrels in every quarter of the town. All this disturbance resulted from "a competition for an organ in the Temple church, for which the two competitors, the best artists in Europe, Smith and Harris, were but just not ruined.” The struggle thus mentioned in the ‘Memoirs of Musick is so comic an episode in the story of London life, and has been the occasion of so much error amongst writers, that it claims brief restatement in the present chapter.
In February, 1682, the Benchers of the Temples, wishing to obtain for their church an organ of superlative excellence, invited Father Smith and Renatus Harris to compete for the honor of supplying the instrument. The masters of the benchers pledged themselves that “if each of these excellent artists would set up an organ in one of the halls belonging to either of the societies, they would have erected in their church that which, in the greatest number of excellencies, deserved the preference.” For more than twenty years Father Smith had been the first organ-builder in England ; and the admirable qualities of his instruments testify to his singular ability. A German artist (in his native country called Bernard Schmidt, but in London known as Father Smith), he had established himself in the English capital as early as the summer of 1660 ; and gaining the cordial patronage of Charles II., he and his two grand-nephews soon became leaders of their craft. Father Smith built organs for Westminster Abbey, for the Church of St. Giles-inthe-Fields, for St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, for Durham Cathedral, and for other sacred buildings. In St. Paul's Cathedral he placed the organ which Wren disdainfully designated a “box of whistles ;" and dying in 1708, he left his son-in-law, Christopher Schreider, to complete the organ which still stands in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge. But notwithstanding his greatness, Father Smith had rivals; his first rival being Harris the Elder, who died in 1672, his second being Renatus Harris, or Harris the Younger. The elder Harris never caused Smith much discomfort; but his son, Renatus, was a very clever fellow, and a strong party of fashionable connoisseurs declared that he was greatly superior to the German. Such was the position of these two rivals when the benchers made their proposal, which was eagerly accepted by the artificers, each of whom saw in it an opportunity for covering his antagonist with humiliation.
The men went to work : and within fourteen months their instruments were ready for competition. Smith finished work before Harris, and prevailed on the benchers to let him place his organ in the Temple church, well knowing that the powers of the instrument could be much more readily and effectively displayed in the church than in either of the dining-halls. The exact site where he fixed his organ is unknown, but the careful author of 'A Few Notes on the Temple Organ, 1859,' is of opinion that it was put up “on the screen between the round and oblong churches-the position occupied by the organ until the present organ-chamber was built, and the organ removed there during the progress of the complete restoration of the church in the year 1843.” No sooner had Harris finished his organ, than, following Father