Music in the English Courtly Masque, 1604-1640

By Peter Walls | Go to book overview
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The William Lawes Masques

The Triumph of Peace: A Case Study in Job Demarcation

The published text of The Triumph of Peace is one of the relatively few to mention the contribution of specific musicians. Its author, James Shirley, signs off by paying tribute, first to Inigo Jones as designer, and then -- in particularly generous terms -- to the musicians: 'The composition of the music was performed by Mr. William Lawes and Mr. Simon Ives, whose art gave an harmonious soul to the otherwise languishing numbers' (ll. 787-9). This picture of the music's genesis is corroborated by the best-known account of The Triumph of Peace, that in Bulstrode Whitelocke Memorials of English Affairs ( 1682). Whitelocke seems in a position to speak with authority; he describes himself as the person primarily responsible for the organization of the musical side of the entertainment and takes credit for the choice of such fine composers.

All of this makes it look as if Ives and Lawes shared the composition. Yet since the 1960s, when Murray Lefkowitz and Andrew Sabol investigated Whitelocke's surviving records at Longleat, it has been clear that the picture presented by the masque text and the Memorials was not complete.1 The Longleat papers do include payments to Lawes and Ives, 'for Composition of songes and symphonyes', but they also reveal that, amongst other duties, Davis Mell composed music for the antimasque. His payment is described as 'the reward of the Inns of Courte for service performed in attending the grand masquers practise playing to them on the treble violin & making some of the tunes for the antimasques'.2

Even then, the picture is not complete. Not one, but two sets of financial records dealing with music for The Triumph of Peace survive. In addition to the Longleat receipts and memoranda, there are a further set of accounts in the

See M. Lefkowitz, "'The Longleat Papers of Bulstrode Whitelocke; New Light on Shirley's Triumph of Peace"', JAMS 18 ( 1965), 42-60; and Sabol, "New Documents on Shirley's Masque".
Longeat House, Whitelocke papers, Parcel II, Item 9 (6), fo. 3v. Mell was, in fact, a fine violinist -- 'accounted hitherto the best for the violin in England' ( Anthony à Wood) -- and an interesting composer. For a discussion of Mell's music in relation to the development of 17th-c. violin-playing in England see my "Influence of the Italian Violin School in Seventeenth-Century England", EM 18 ( 1990), 575-87.


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Music in the English Courtly Masque, 1604-1640


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