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