Charles Burney, Sr

Alvaro Ribeiro, S.J. (ed.), The Letters of Dr Charles Burney, Vol. 1: 1751–1784

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To John Alcock1 [Queen Square], 26 November 1771

L copy extract (Osborn).

Docketed by FBA: For Memoirs of Dr. Burney | To Dr Alcock.

And by ?: Lettr to Dr Alcock | Farinelli

And by ??: Extract | of a Letter | To Dr Alcock | Novr 26 | 1771

… There is a circumstance relative to the Birth & name of Farinelli, which I did not chuse to mention during his Life,2 which is, that he was the Son of a Musical Baker, at Naples, called Broschi & it was alluding to his father's trade that he was nick-named Farinelli,3or the little Baker, Farina being Italian for wheat Flour, is frequently extended to such as use it, or rather, perhaps, to such Bakers as are meal merchants, as is the case of some of ours. Jaycock4 was a celebrated pg 108musical Baker with us, in my Time. He was Brother to the famous President of the Robin-hood Club,5 who was possessed of great natural parts, by the meer force of which, without Education, he was able to investigate abstruse subjects of human Reason, & to foil in Disputation, Persons greatly his superiours in point of Learning, as well as Birth & situation. I knew the Baker well.6 He had amassed together a great collection of curious Books on Music, some of which I purchased at the sale of his Effects after his decease, 18 or 20 years ago. Tho' he played on no instrument well, but the Tenor,7 he had attempted several others, & had a very singular faculty upon the Harpsichord, of playing the changes of any number of Bells, as far as 10,8 for Hours together, in as quick succession as they are usually rung. He had in his younger Days, been a great Ringer & had literally the several Peals of 6. 8. or 10 Bells so much at his finger's Ends, that he played with facility from memory & reflection, what, if reduced to Musical Notation, would scarce be practicable to the greatest Performer in Europe. & yet his fingers were stiff, & unable to execute a Birth Day Minuet. I have formerly wrote down a series of changes upon 10 Bells, but so wild was the melody they produced, & so difficult to execute, that I never could equal the honest Baker in playing them. …

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 John Alcock (1715–1806), B.Mus. (1755), D.Mus. (1766), English organist and composer. A school-fellow of Boyce, apprenticed to John Stanley, he had been organist of Lichfield Cathedral (1750–before 1765). He was currently organist of the parish churches of Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire (1761–86), and Tamworth, Staffordshire (1766–90). For his works and antiquarian interests, see New Grove.
Editor’s Note
2 Alcock had probably written to CB after reading in the Italian Tour CB's account of Farinelli's life and career (pp. 205–17; Tours, i. 153–7). Perhaps Alcock supplied CB with additional information about Farinelli, which he suggested should be included in the second edition of the Tour.
Editor’s Note
3 After Carlo Broschi's death in 1782, CB included this explanation for the nickname 'Farinelli' in the last volume of the History of Music, published in 1789 (iv. 379 n.; Mercer, ii. 789 n.). Farinelli's father, Salvatore Broschi (1681–1717), was Royal Viceroy at Maratea and Cisternino (1706–9), later a music master and composer, not a baker. The castrato's professional nickname appears to have been derived from that of the Neapolitan family Farina, the boy's patrons (New Grove). See also A. Heriot, The Castrati in Opera (1956), pp. 95–110.
Editor’s Note
4 Samuel Jeacocke (d. c.1748), carried on the business of a baker in Clerkenwell. A keen amateur musician, 'when a fiddle or a violoncello did not please him,' he would, 'to mend the tone of it, bake it for a week in a bed of saw-dust' (Hawkins, v. 351). See also 'Jeacock' in Rees.
Editor’s Note
5 Caleb Jeacocke (1706–86), also a baker (DNB). From 1743 to 1761 he presided over the deliberations and potations of the debating society founded in 1613, which in 1747 moved the venue of its celebrated Monday meetings from the Essex Head in Essex Street to the Robin Hood in Butcher Row, Temple Bar (The History of the Robinhood Society (1764), pp. 119–32).
Editor’s Note
6 Samuel, the musician. The ensuing sketch of Jeacocke's 'singular faculty' of playing bell-ringing changes on the harpsichord is substantially repeated in CB's article on Jeacocke in Rees.
Editor’s Note
7 i.e. viola. Jeacocke 'played on several instruments, but mostly the tenor-violin' (Hawkins, v. 351).
Editor’s Note
8 'Which changes amounted to 3,628,800' ('Jeacock' in Rees). For CB's youthful interest in change-ringing, see CB Mem. 6.
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