Early Tudor Composers: Biographical Sketches of Thirty-Two Musicians and Composers of the Period 1485-1555

By W. Henry Hadow; William H. Grattan Flood | Go to book overview
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XIII. Thomas Farthing

IN the valuable list of old English composers printed by Morley, in 1597, as an Addendum to his Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke, appears the name of Farthing. Many specimens of Farthing's powers as a composer have survived, and one of them, 'In May, that lusty season', is quoted by Dr. Ernest Walker in his History of Music in England ( 1907). Yet, strange to say, up to the present no musical historian has attempted to lift the veil which hid the identity of this early Tudor composer. Not even a fairly approximate date has been furnished for the period of his musical activities, save merely a haphazard statement that he probably flourished 'under Henry VII and Henry VIII'--a period of sixty-two years--rather vague, indeed. As to his personality not a hint has previously been given. Hence it is with special pleasure I present the following definite information regarding the composer of 'The thought within my breast', 'With sorrowful eyes', 'I love truly', and a nameless three-part piece. The three last named are in the British Museum (Add. MS. 31922).

Thomas Farthing (the name is variously written Farding and Farthyng) was born circa1475, and in 1508 we first meet with him as a singer in the chapel of the Countess of Richmond and Derby, the mother of King Henry VII. On the decease of this noble and philanthropic lady we find that she bequeathed annuities to her retainers, including Hugh Aston, Thomas Farthing, and others. Late in the following year ( 1509) Farthing was given a post as Gentleman of the Chapel Royal under William Cornish; and his name appears among those who received mourning livery for the funeral of Prince Henry, who died on February 22, 1511. On July 8, 1511, Thomas Farthing had confirmation from

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