Music to my Ears

February 2, 2012 at 10:51 am (books, diaries, entertainment, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


To most people, today (Feb 2nd) is Groundhog Day — when the end (or not!) of winter is “predicted” down in Punxsutawney, PA. It’s a very grey day, here in Vermont; but I guess even I would see my shadow.

Yet after reading Eliza Chute’s 1800 diary one fateful day, and seeing her comment that,

“Mrs Gosling brought
to bed of Mary”

on Sunday, February 2nd, this day has always represented Mary Gosling’s birthday, 212 years later!

I have mentioned, in previous years, how unusual Eliza’s comment seems; typically it should have read “of a girl”, never naming the child at this point. My only conclusion is that Eliza G must have told Eliza C “If it’s a girl, she will be MARY, after my mother and my sister.”

The Goslings’ elder daughter was named after her own mother, although perhaps with the names inverted: Mother was Margaret Elizabeth — always called Eliza, she signed her letters, at least to Eliza Chute, MEG. Daughter may have been Elizabeth Margaret or Margaret Elizabeth (I have found evidence of both, though tend to think the later is correct). She was always called Elizabeth by the Smiths, yet never referred to in writing by Mary as anything other than my Sister. Finding a letter of Elizabeth’s — whether signed Elizabeth Gosling or Elizabeth Christie — would be a great FIND!

I am still at the preliminary stage of tracking down the dual portrait of the sisters, done by Sir William Beechey. I have an excellent description of it, via Elizabeth’s daughter Charlotte. Mary is seated at a pianoforte; Elizabeth, seated beside her, holds a piece of music composed for her by Cramer.

Mary mentions, I believe only once, having the piano tuner in. Emma’s diaries, written in the midst of lessons and family performances, makes frequent mention of music. Often concerning herself and elder sister Augusta.

I adore music, although I never took lessons. (I blame it on an ever-so-slightly older cousin who did not stick with the clarinet; it was thought I wouldn’t stick with an instrument either. One music career blighted before it even began!) It is my deepest regret, despite trying to teach myself, that I have no facility for reading music. In serious books on music history, I have no choice but to skip over illustrations and lengthy descriptions. However, I have quite the collection of music history and biography, especially about Mozart.

It has been some weeks since I grabbed off my shelves a book I read when first purchased, about 1998 (when it was published): The Mozart Family: Four Lives in a Social Context, by Ruth Halliwell. I thought it an excellent book then, and am still enjoying it — more than 430 pages later! I haven’t stuck with a big book this long in a long while…

(BTW, this is the type of scholarship Austen Studies needs; something which looks at the whole family unit; also a scholarly edition of the entire family letters, setting Jane’s alongside the correspondence of others. See the original Mozart Briefe for what I’m talking about.)

One item which struck me was given very early (pages 42-3), in which I found myself saying, Emma commented on this for her musical education. Given that I’m reviewing Gillen D’arcy Wood’s Romanticism and Music Culture in Britain, 1770-1840 for JASNA News, this passage from Halliwell brought home just how much an “amateur” had to accomplish:

“…Rieger {a biographer of Nannerl Mozart} appears to underestimate the creative nature of keyboard playing in the eighteenth century. To be able to play a fully-written-out piece accurately and in good taste was only one part of it. Most keyboard players, even amateur ones, also needed to be able to accompany solos and ensembles, and the accompaniments were not written out — only the base-line was provided, and the harmony notated below it in shorthand by figures. Because figured bass accompaniment is no longer practised by most keyboard players, it is difficult to … appreciate just what this meant in terms of skill and creative imagination.”

Immediately upon reading the likes of this I was transported back to c1818, where Emma writes of lessons in Thorough Base!

My girls were so lucky — no one nipped their musical interests in the bud.

So, honor my Mary, by grabbing a favorite beverage (a cup of tea, in my case) , and settling down to listen to a lovely Mozart piano work. And remember: Six more weeks of winter!

Advertisements

1 Comment

  1. G said,

    informative… it’s music to my ears :))))

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: