THE career of William Cornish as a dramatist, actor, and producer of interludes, pageants, &c., has been admirably dealt with by Professor Wallace in his Evolution of the English Drama up to Shakespeare ( Berlin, 1912). In the present survey his musical activities and the details of his life will occupy our attention. The extraordinary blunder of the late Mr. W. H. Husk in making two individuals out of the one, and of actually contributing memoirs of the two to Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians --in fact the two memoirs appear in the same edition of Grove-- renders it particularly necessary to set forth the actual biographical data of William Cornish. We have read no doubt of 'the two single gentlemen rolled into one', but in the present case we have to deal with one single gentleman who has been expanded into two!
William Cornish, probably the son of John Cornish, was born circa 1468, a contemporary of Newark and Burton. The first record of him is under date of November 12, 1493, when we find him as the recipient of 13s, 4d. 'for a prophecy', written for Henry VII--as entered in the Household Book of Henry VII, 1491- 1505. A short time previously he had been paid a hundred shillings, as a present from the King; and on July 13, 1494, he was granted by the King the keeping of a brewhouse and four other messuages at Charing Cross--a grant unnoticed by Professor Wallace. It is quite evident that he must have been a member of the King's Household from 1492, but it is not till 1496 (September 1) that we meet with an entry implying that he was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. This entry reads: "'Item. to Cornish of the King's Chapel, 26s. 8d.'" Four months later, on January 24, 1497, he was given a commission to impress sailors to go to Scotland.