Emma Austen and the Guitar

March 24, 2021 at 2:40 pm (diaries, entertainment, people) (, , )

Quite some time ago, musicologist Christopher Page contacted me over mentions in Emma’s diaries of the guitarist Trinidad Huerta. Page’s research now has been published as, The Guitar in Georgian England: A Social and Musical History.

Huerta was actually born a few months after my diarist Mary (her birthday: 2 February 1800); making him about a year older than Emma, when she reports hearing him and his (2nd) wife Angiolina Panormo (on the piano, and singing) at a morning concert in Newbury on the 27 March 1830. The Austens were young marrieds by then, and Newbury must have given Emma a pleasant memory of her “single lady” days, in London.

It was not easy to be a professional performer in the first quarter of the 19th century. Page notes “The travels of Trinidad Huerta reveal the movements of a solo guitarist who often looked beyond London (where he was well known) for his engagements.” Thus his ending up in Newbury, Berkshire.

In an email, Page wrote: “1830 marks the peak of the guitar craze in Georgian England as measured, for example, by the number of women seeking governess posts through advertisements in the London press, year by year, and offering to teach the instrument.”


  1. Sabine said,

    It’s always interesting where research can lead to, thank you for the provided links. I’ve recently talked with a friend about how different music was perceived back in the 18th and 19th century and how we do today with constant access to music via media (and how even historical movies are mostly accompanied by back ground music)…while typing this I listen to a recording of Koželuh’s music.
    There’s still so much to discover to get a wider (and clearer) picture of our ancestors’ world and daily life.

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      It’s actually a decently-priced book (in the US, $40), instead of academic publisher outrageous pricing. It’s always nice when a publisher thinks about the wider appeal – not just libraries with a bit of a budget. Some of us enjoy a more detailed study. Yale has been the publisher of a couple of books on costume (one reviewed on this site, one thru the Jane Austen Society of North America); and a couple I’ve purchased.

      When I think about “going back in time”, one thing I’d DEARLY miss is the ability to listen to music when I pleased (in my case, the radio is nearly always on).

      As you mention, Sabine, there were lights on in the auditorium, noisy ‘rabble’ to drown out the singers, never mind the pastiche operas instead of the “composer’s compositions” we are _now_ used to hearing. I, a Mozart-lover, always think about how his compositions “traveled” outside of Austria… So much not published in his lifetime; operas hitting London in the 1810s – but so much unknown to a “worldwide” audience that we take for granted, when we turn on the radio or pull out a CD (or LP!).

      I’ve only read the earliest chapter of Christopher’s book – but even learning ABOUT the guitar is highly instructive to us who rather “live in the past”. As you say, so much to discover about daily life in past centuries. And life, without music, would be so unthinkable!

      Thanks for commenting – great food for though. k

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