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THIS time last year we congratulated our readers on the Peace, a word dear to evert/ humane mind, and doubly so to the lovers of Literature and the Arts. We have now been more than two months engaged in another war. So short has been the interval between the treaty of Amiens and the renewal of hostilities. An ambitious and merciless enemy threatens us with destruction, and the spirit of the country is roused to defend our shores. If our humble aid were necessary, anxious as zee have been to confine our pages to literary and moral subjects, we should cheerfully devote them to the cause which now animates the breast of every Briton i but, to adopt the language ofRolla, "never was there a time when words were so little needed," and we doubt not that the issue of the present struggle will be as glorious for England as it will be disgraceful to the arms, and iruinous to the interests of our implacable enemy.
To give additional neatness and elegance to the Publication, zee commence the present Volume with a beautiful new Type, cast for the purpose, and provided at a considerable expence.
t+t Several of the earlier Numbers having been lately reprinted, complete sets of the Monthly Mirror may now be had at the Publisher's.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF
With a Portrait.
Among the various offices of literary occupation, there is no task more pleasing than to commemorate the gradual advance of unpresuming merit, and its final triumph over those obstacles which it never fails to meet with in the paths of the world. In the course of the present sketch, the reader must not be disappointed, if he find no history of factious intrigues, no menial cabals, no adulatory research of patronage, and no venal prostitution of talent. A plain, honest diligence, a careful refinement of natural endowments, a firm respect for his own fame, and a complacent attention to the wishes of the public; these, engrafted on an ardent desire TO Excel, have raised to an early, and (we believe, in every candid opinion) a just eminence, the person of whom we here offer a few brief anecdotes.
John Braham became an orphan in his earliest years, but the affectionate care of a near relation prevented him from feeling the importance of his misfortune. Leoni, whose musical powers the public yet remember with delight, and who united with uncommon talents a truly philanthropic temper, beheld, in the friendless infant, a proper object for his protection. Happily devoid of that jealousy, which looks with a jaundiced eye on every prospect of a rival, however distant, a failing of which the history of professional men,—alas! of every kind, affords too many examples, he witnessed, with unfeigned pleasure, the first disclosure of those singular musical faculties, which have since, with so successful cultivation, attained their full maturity and strength. ,
Mr. Braham, at the age of twelve years, began the study of music, and with such closeness of application did the natural bent of genius prompt him to pursue his acquisitions, that he soon outstripped his patron's powers of instruction, and even surpassed him so far, as to become in turn the instructor. Leoni's songs acquired new graces from the suggestions of his extraordinary pupil. In truth, although endowed with an extreme correctness
of ear, and an unrivalled tone of voice,* Leoni was by no means a profound musician : he possessed however the strength of judgment requisite to appreciate his own abilities, and liberally provided a more scientific and more suitable master, to second the promising efforts of juvenile industry.
The young songster, when about fifteen, made his first appearance at the Royalty Theatre, then under the management of the late Mr. John Palmer; at which time there was a peculiar sweetness in the tones of his voice, to which he had added such expertness of execution, that he was able to accomplish most of the bravura songs at that time sung by Madame Mara. Many of our readers will recollect his performance of "The Soldier tir'd of War's alarms." But, two years afterwards, by the change in the vocal organs, which frequently accompanies the commencement of adult age, he was for some time deprived of every means of making a further progress in the public favour.
Unfortunately, at the same period, his protector found it requisite, on account of domestic concerns, to leave England for Jamaica, and Mr. Braham perceived himself, a second time, an orphan. In this emergency, his fortunes found a shelter in the friendship of the Goldsmids, a family of very great respectability in the city. Under their auspices, he became a teacher on the piano forte, which employment produced him an income of about three hundred pounds per annum. His inclinations, however, still led him to the practise of vocal, in preference to instrumental music. He employed the utmost solicitude in endeavouring to regain the powers of his voice, and, in the numerous musical societies which he frequented, he exerted every nerve to recal his lost excellence.
At one of these meetings, he accidentally became acquainted with Mr Ashe, the celebrated performer on the flute, who, struck with his vocal abilities, and prophecying his future eminence, easily persuaded him to accept the proffer of an engagement at Bath.— Accordingly, at the beginning of the winter season of 1794, he made his appearance, and his first essay, as a tenor singer, at the Bath concerts, which were conducted by that friend, and master of the musical art, Rauzzini.
Of this man, though barely to make mention be sufficient for fame, the grateful sentiments of every child of music, will, we be
* l>oni's tone of voice was that which by the cognoscenti is termed a falsetto. Nature had imparted to it that quality of sound, which in some other countries the brutal ingenuity of enfeebled luxury has not scrupled to procure by the most cruel and ignominious methods: a practice which debased the art that effected it. This unnatural custom is said to have been put a stop to in Italy, during the late predominance of the French. May it be finally abolished, and, for the honour of human nature, forgotten!
iieve, start forward to accompany us, wliile we offer a passing tribute to his character. Rauzzini, long since possessed of the favour bf the public as a singer, and conspicuous as a composer, preferring the retirement of Bath, and giving celebrity to the little adjacent hill of Hungity Lands* appears, in the fair horizon of that city, as the inspiring genius of melody, and in her musical orgies, he is the ministering priest. Accomplished in all the learning, and all the graces of his art, he imparts the light of his mind to every professional student, whom a requisite degree of talents entitles to seek his assistance. His house is by degrees become a kind of musical lyceum, and a singer untutored by Rauzzini, appears but half accomplished. In fact, the most eminent among the favourites of the public of the present moment, are found in the list of his scholars.
To the improvement acquired at his lyceum, the singular liberality of the master's disposition, has, moreover, appended advantages, seldom attendant on other schools. Without any greater resources of fortune, than those which the eminence of his talents lays open to him; he receives and entertains, in his hospitable mansion, those very students who come to him for the purpose of profiting by his instructions. Every professional person finds a home at Rauzzini's. After what has been related, it is almost unnecessary to say that he is beloved as he is respected, and is no less the delight than the ornament of the class to which he belongs.
Mr. Braham no sooner appeared at the conceits at Bath, than he became the pupil of Rauzzini, and it is to his friendly, zealous, and judicious lessons, that the leading features of Mr. Braham's excellence owe their form and name. The character which that master gave to the exertions of his powers, has accompanied him through all his subsequent labours. Amidst the refinements of Italy, the scientific caparison of Germany, or the more rude and simple pathos of our own national strains, the same tasteful disposition has been invariably predominant)-.
In this useful school he was more than ever diligent in the pursuit of his art, and his fame, re-echoed to the metropolis, induced the ever admired and ever regretted Stephen Storace to take a journey to Bath on purpose to hear him. That sagacious observer, quickly convinced of his merits, by consent of the managers of
• Where Mr. R. has a small villa, and where he resides during the summer months.
t As a still more striking instance of a truly liberal mind, it deserves to be mentioned that, after gratuitously receiving into his house and instructing Mr. Braham for nearly three years, when Mr. K. afterwards sung at his annual concert, Rauzzini insisted on his receiving * very ample payment for that exertion of his talents. "Blush, grandeur, blush!"
Drury-Lane, made an engagement with him to sing for a limited number of evenings at that theatre, and the young favourite came to London to make his first appearance, accordingly, in the spring of 1796; an epoch memorable to the public, by the acquisition of so extraordinary a singer, and by the loss of no less extraordinary a composer.
While the scenery of a new opera was preparing, Stephen Storace, he whose anxious and ambitious diligence had provided for the public new stores of musical gratification, he who, (till the present moment) had so long sought in vain, a fresh scope for the energy of industry and ever-teeming genius;—he, alas! sunk, conscious of yet unfolded talents, to his early grave. His death paralysed the work which was then proceeding at the theatre, but did not prevent its production in an incomplete state. Mr. Sheridan made professions of an intention to render the new opera advantageous to the composer's widow, and, with the friendly assistance of Kelly, and some additional music selected by Signora Storace, the composer's sister, Mr. Braham finally made his entree in Mahmoud. This was a composition designed to combine the pathos of tragedy, with the splendors of pageantry, the mirth of farce, and the syren charms of melody. Mr. Braham's appearance was made by the opening of a pavilion, at the entrance of which he presented himself, (as a Persian Prince habited for the chase, and just alighted from it) standing in the front of a beautiful white Arabian courser, which was then the property of the theatre. The coup d' ceil was impressive, the young performer advanced amidst the plaudits of the spectators, and the display of his musical powers gratified their most sanguine expectations. The tone of his voice was naturally of the most pleasing quality, and its various modulations were not more suited to delight the ear than to interest the feelings. Its expression was every where pathetic, and the more to enforce its powers in this respect, he exhibited an articulation of words which, while wholly free from harshness, was perfectly clear, distinct, and intelligible in the most distant parts of the theatre. In this last point, to use the words of one of the sagest and soundest critics of the day, "he appeared a phenomenon in the musical world." His voice thus eloquently impressive, and breathing the sweetest melodies endeared by the recent memory of departed genius, produced an effect on the public which may be more easily called to the recollection of those who were present, than described to others.
[To be concluded in our next.]