An Eighteenth-Century Musical Tour in Central Europe and the Netherlands: Being Dr. Charles Burney's Account of His Musical Experiences - Vol. 2

By Charles Burney; Percy A. Scholes | Go to book overview

The Introduction

It is well known that such merchandize as is capable of adulteration, is seldom genuine after passing through many hands; and this principle is still more generally allowed with respect to intelligence, which is, perhaps, never pure but at the source.

Music has, through life, been the favourite object of my pursuit, not only with respect to the practice of it as a profession, but the history of it as an art; and that my knowledge might be free from such falshood and error as the plainest and simplest facts are known to gather up in successive relations, I have made a second tour on the continent, taking nothing upon report, of which I could procure better testimony, and, accumulating the most authentic memorials of the times that are past; and as I have, in a late publication, endeavoured to do justice to the talents and attainments of the present musicians of France and Italy, I shall now make the same attempt with respect to those of Germany, hoping that the testimony of one who has himself been witness of the particulars he relates, will have a weight which integrity itself cannot give to hear-say evidence, and that the mind of the reader will be more entertained, in proportion as it is more satisfied of the truth of what is written. For if knowledge be medicine for the soul, according to the famous inscription on the Egyptian Library,1 it seems as much to concern us to obtain it genuine, as to procure unadulterated medicine for the body.

Travelling for information concerning the transactions of remote countries, was much more practised by the writers of antiquity than it has been by those of later times, who have found it more convenient to compile books at their own fire-side, from books which have been compiled before, than to cross seas, mountains, and deserts, in foreign countries, to seek for new and authentic materials. But Homer, Herodotus, Plato, Plutarch, and Pausanias, who were great travellers, either lived in times when there were few books to consult, or, if they were not possessed of more wealth than modern authors, must have met with more than modern hospitality; for long voyages, however necessary, would otherwise have been scarcely practicable.

For my part, who have travelled without these advantages, and who pretend not to the character of sage, if it be said, that the object of my pursuit is by no means equivalent to my labour and expence; I can only answer, that though I am unwilling to allow the knowledge of a science which diffuses so much blameless pleasure, through a circle of such vast extent, to be of small importance, yet I most sincerely wish that I could have procured it upon easier terms, and have visited remote countries after the deliberate and parsimonious manner of Asclepiades,2 who, according to Tertullian, made the tour of the world on a cow's back, and lived upon her milk.

It is however certain, that whatever will justify my rambling through

____________________
1
ψυχη+̑ς ἰστρεU+039+̑ον.
2
Asclepiades. Greek physician of high repute in the early first century B.C.

-xi-

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