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At the age of seven I began to learn music. My first master's name was Morland;- he was the very prototype of his namesake the painter; a wonderful genius. But dissipation was his idol, and he who might have selected the very best society, preferred that of the lowest orders. He was continually in a state of whiskey-punch intoxication.--He would sleep all day in a cellar, and I have often heard him say, somewhat nationally, that his morning began at eleven o'clock at night!
His first visit was generally to our house, for he was partial to my father, or rather to his currant whiskey, and so anxious was my father that I should receive instruction from him, that I have been kept up till one o'clock in the morning on the mere chance of getting a lesson. My improvement under him was rapid, and before I had attained my ninth year,
I could execute with precision and neatness Schobert's Sonatas, which were then all the fashion. I also possessed a soprano voice, on which my father was determined to bestow every possible cultivation. My first singing masters were Signor Passerini, a native of Bologna, and Signor Peretti, who was a vero musico. He was the original Artaxerxes when the opera of that name was first performed at Covent Garden; he taught me the beautiful air, “ In infancy our hopes and fears," which was composed for him, and it made an
impression on my mind never to be forgotten.—He had a fine contre altro voice, and possessed the true portamento so little known in the present day. He also taught me the song of Arbaces, “ Amid a thousand racking woes,” which I executed with the greatest facility: but the songs which delighted me most were, “ Oh too lovely, too unkind,” and « Oh, why is death for ever late ?” I never sang those without tears. Another great favourite of mine was that in Lionel and Clarissa, composed by Galupi.—By the way, all the Lionels of the present day think proper to omit that fine song; perhaps they are right, and for the reason once given to me by an Irish post-boy, whom I was scolding for not driving faster; he turned round, and exclaimed, “By Jasus, master, it is not an easy thing to work hard."
I was sent, with my brother Patrick, to the best academy in Dublin, kept by Doctor Burke, a clergyman of the Church of England. He was a worthy man, and considered an excellent scholar. His daughter was one of the first piano-forte players of the day. The late Mr. Francis Goold, and Mr. Thomas Goold his brother, the Irish barrister, were on the same form with me. At a beautiful villa, which their accomplished father had near Dublin, I frequently spent the vacations with them. Mr. Goold was an excellent judge of music, of which
he was very fond, and all the men of genius then in Ireland used to meet at his house on Sundays. Kane O'Hara, the ingenious author of Midas, had a puppet-show for the amusement of his friends; it was worked by a young man of the name of Nick Marsh, who sang for Midas and Pan. a fellow of infinite humour ; his parody on “Shepherds, I have lost my love," was equal to any thing written by the well-known Captain Morris ; and with many others of equal merit, will be long remembered for the rich vein of humour which characterises it. The love of company, joined to a weak constitution, condemned this truly original genius to an early grave, regretted by all who knew him. In the performance of this fantoccini I sang the part of Daphne, and was instructed by the author himself; the others were by other amateurs. It was quite the rage with all the people of fashion, who crowded nightly to see the gratuitous performance.
About this time I changed my singing-master, and was placed under Signor St. Giorgio, who was engaged at the Rotunda ; his voice was not powerful, but he possessed exquisite taste. He was an honest man, and married a widow with large property, previously to which, he, Signor Carnevali, Signor Micheli, and Signor Sensi, got a £.30,000 prize in the lottery, a piece of good fortune of which
he was very deserving, and I believe is still living to enjoy.
Trifling occurrences during childhood often influence our future lives. I recollect once, when returning from a visit to a relation of my mother's, I saw Signor St. Giorgio enter a fruit-shop; he proceeded to eat peaches and nectarines, and at last took a pine apple, and deliberately sliced and ate that. This completed my longing, and while my mouth watered, I asked myself why, if I assiduously studied music, I should not be able to earn money enough to lounge about in fruit-shops, and eat peaches and pine apples, as well as Signor St. Giorgio. I answered myself by promising that I would study hard; and I really did so;-and, trifling as this little anecdote may appear, I firmly
I believe it was the chief cause of my
serious resolution to follow up music as a profession; for my father had other views for me. His intention was to place me under Surgeon Neale, one of his oldest and most intimate friends, who, independently of his profession, ranked as one of the first violin players of his time ; he had a most powerful hand, and his tone, expression, and taste, nothing could surpass.
His celebrity for playing Correlli's and Geminiani's music was so great that, singular to say, n the year 1787 he was commanded by King George III. to go to London, where he had the honour of performing before His Majesty several times, and His Majesty expressed the greatest approbation of his extraordinary powers. He was a constant visitor at our house, and took great pains with me, particularly in the song of “ Prudente mi chiedi,” in Metastasio's opera of Il Demofoonte, which was composed by Vento, and sung by the famous Mansoli, at the King's Theatre many years before*
Dublin, in those days, had to boast of much musical excellence. The greatest performers in Europe, who came to London, were engaged there in the summer season by the governors of the principal charities, who were also managers of the Rotunda Concerts. I can remember at different times that Mr. and Mrs. Barthelemon, (Barthelemon was a fine performer of the old school, on the violin,) Le Vacher, Pepe, La Motte, Cramer,
* When I was first at Florence, I had the gratification of heariug that great and celebrated performer sing it, which he did at the particular request of Signor Veroli and myself. I also sang it to him with the English words, “ Oh, talk not to me of the wealth she possesses,” and be seemed much pleased. Having returned to Italy with a princely fortune, Mansoli purchased an estate within a few miles of Florence, where I dined with him : he spoke of England with admiration, and expressed great gratitude for the attention and applause he received at the Opera House, and in concerts.