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which have made you the most able and unbiassed patriot. A vigorous imagination, an extensive apprehension, and a ready judgement, have distinguished you in all the illustrious parts of administration, in a reign attended with such difficulties, that the same talents, without the same quickness in the possession of them, would have been incapable of conquering. The natural success of such abilities, has advanced you to a feat in that illustrious house *, where you were received by a crowd of your relations. Great as you are in your honours, and personal qualities, I know you will forgive an humble neighbour the vanity, of pretending to a place in your friendship, and subscribing himself, my Lord, your Lordship’s most obliged, and most devoted servant,
To Mr. POPE.
July 26, 1711.
you have received my letter. This is for the same end, to know whether you are at leisure to help Mr. Clayton up, that is, me, to some 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 subscription. X 3
Your answer to me at Will's will be a great favour to, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant,
To Mr. HUCHES.
1711. R. CLAYTON and I desire you, as soon
as you can conveniently, to alter this poem
* for music, preserving as many of Dry. den's words and verses as you can. It is to be performed by a voice well skilled in recitative; but you understand all these matters imuch bet. ter than your affectionate humble servant,
* " Alexander's Feast, or the Power of Music, an Ode for St, “ Cecilia’s Day." Agreeably to this request, Mr. Hughes made several 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 justice to Dryden, as well as to Milton, was reserved for Handel, who composed “ Alexander's
Feast" in 1736." It is to be regretted,” says Dr. Warton, in hiş • Essay on Pope,' “ that Mr. Handel has not set to music “ Pope's Ode' as well as Dryden's.” But should it not be obo ferved, that that excellent poet, as well as judge of music, Mr. Hughes, was the first who altered “ Alexander's Feast" for music? Monthly Review," vol. XIV. p. 549.-This note is from Mr. Duncombe's collection of “ Letters by several eminent Sauer Persons deceased, &c." vol. I. p. 65.
Mr. HUGHES to Mr. STEELE
(1711). SINCE you have asked my opinion about
the music, 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 whose candour and integrity I did not think myself safe.
I shall therefore, without taking any hints from others, just give you some few observations which have occurred to me as well as I could judge upon the first hearing.
That which seems to me to strike most are the prelude-bases, some of which are very well fancied; but I am afraid they are in themselves too long, especially when repeated ; for preJude-bases are only to begin the subject of the air, and do not Thew any composition (which consists in the union of parts) so that, if they are not artfully worked afterwards with the voicepart, they are no proof of skill, but only of invention.
The fymphonies in many places seem to me perplexed, and not made to pursue any subject or point.
The last air of Sappho begins too chearfully for the sense of the words. As well as I can guess, without seeing the score, it is in D sharp, from which it varits (in another movement of time) into B flat 3d, and so ends, without returning to the same key either flat or sharp. This being one continued air (though in two movements of time), let some master be asked, Whether it is allowable (I am sure it is not usual) to begin an air in one key sharp, and end it in a different key flat ? For though the palfage is natural, the closing so is, I believe, always disallowed.
The overture of Alexander ought to be great and noble; instead of which, I find only a hurry of the instruments, not proper (in my poor opinion) and without any design, or fugue, and, I am afraid, perplexed and irregular in the composition, 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, Phe“ bus,” &c. I cannot think shews any art, and is, in effect, no more than a single air. Nothing Mhews both genius and learning more than this sort of composition, the chief beauty of which confiits in giving each voice different points, and making those points work together, and interchange regularly and surprisingly, or one point following itself in both the voices, in a
kind of canon, as it is called. These artful. nesses, when well executed, give infinite delight to the ear; but that which I have mentioned is not formed after those designs, but where the voices join, they move exactly together in plain counterpoint, which shews little more than a single air.
I think the words in general naturally enough expressed, and, in some places, pathetically: but, because you seem to think this the whole mystery of setting, I take this opportunity to assure you, that it is as possible to express words naturally and pathetically in very faulty compofition, as it is to hit a likeness in a bad picture. If the music in score, without the words, does not prove itself by the rules of composition, which relates to the harmony and motion of different notes at the same time, the notes in the singing parts will not suffice, though they express the words ever so naturally. This is properly the art of compofition, in which there is room to shew admirable skill, abstracted from the words; and in which the rules for the union of sounds are a kind of syntaxis, from which na 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 composition. Yet, upon the whole, as far as I am able to judge, the music of Sappho and Alexander, though in some places agreeable, will not please masters.