Henry Purcell: The English Musical Tradition

By A. K. Holland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
PURCELL AND HIS AGE

IF, as an ironical writer has been pleased to allege, ignorance is the first requisite of the historian, then the biographers of Purcell must be accounted singularly well equipped. But the ignorance which consists in ignoring, in shutting a careful eye to the superfluity of detail, is rather a different matter from the sheer scantiness of authenticated fact which we meet with in the case of a Shakespeare or a Purcell. There is, in the biographical sense, no real life of Purcell. He left no letters, a will that tells us, as wills are apt to do, that he died in the full possession of his faculties, some formal and not very illuminating dedications and prefaces to his few published works; and he died, the most famous English musician of his age, universally admired, and was buried, with great ceremony, in Westminster Abbey.1 That anyone so celebrated and respected in his own day should have left so few memorials,

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1
'Dr. Purcell was interred at Westminster in a magnificent manner. He is much lamented as a very great master of music.' ( 'Post Boy,' Nov. 28, 1695.) But this posthumous Doctorate has not been confirmed.

-62-

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Henry Purcell: The English Musical Tradition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Part One - The Times 1
  • Chapter I - Antecedents 3
  • Chapter II - The Restoration Scene 33
  • Chapter III - Purcell and His Age 62
  • Part Two - The Music 105
  • Chapter I - Elements of Style 107
  • Chapter II - Poetic Materials 149
  • Chapter III - Music and Spectacle 192
  • Epilogue 236
  • Short Bibliography 242
  • Index 243
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