1902 Encyclopedia > William Jackson

William Jackson
English composer

WILLIAM JACKSON, (1730-1803), an English musician of repute, was born at Exeter, in May 1730. His father, a grocer, bestowed a liberal education upon him, but, on account of the lad's strong predilection for music, was induced to place him under the care of John Silvester, the organist of Exeter Cathedral, with whom he remained about two years. In 1748 he went to London, and studied under John Travers, organist of the king's chapel. Returning to Exeter, he settled there as a teacher and composer, and in 1777 was appointed subchanter, organist, lay-vicar, and master of the choristers of the cathedral. In 1755 he published his first work, Twelve Songs, which became at once highly popular. His next publication, Six Sonatas for the Harpsichord, was a failure. His third work, Six Elegies for three voices, preceded by an Invocation, with an Accompaniment, was very successful, and placed him among the first composers of his day. Dr Burney considered these as the best of Jackson's works, and added that " no composer copied less from others than Jackson." His fourth work was another set of Twelve Songs, now very scarce; and his fifth work was again a set of Twelve Songs, all of which are now forgotten. He next published Twelve Hymns, with some good remarks upon that style of composition, although his precepts were better than his practice. A set of Twelve Songs followed, containing some good compositions. Next came an Ode to Fancy, the words by Dr Warton. Twelve Canzonets for two voices formed his ninth work; and one of them—" Time has not thinned my Flowing Hair"—long held a place at public and private concerts. His tenth work was Eight Sonatas for the Harpsichord, some of which were novel and pleasing. He composed three dramatic pieces,-—Lycidas (1767), The Lord of the Manor, to General Burgoyne's words (1780), and The Metamorphoses, a comic opera produced at Drury Lane in 1783, which did not succeed. In the second of these dramatic works, two airs—"Encom-passed in an Angel's Form " and " When first this Humble Boof I knew "—were great favourites. Some of his church music, published after his death, did not please the critics. In 1782 he published Thirty Letters on Various Subjects, which are well written and interesting. In these he severely attacked canons, and described William Bird's Non nobis Domine as containing passages not to be endured. But his anger and contempt were most strongly expressed against catches of all kinds, which he denounced as barbarous. In 1791 he put forth a pamphlet, Observations on the Present State of Music in London, in which he found fault with everything and everybody. He published in 1798 The Four Ages, together with Essays on Various Subjects,—a work which gives a favourable idea of his character and of his literary acquirements. It appears that he cultivated a taste for landscape painting, and imitated, not unsuccessfully, the style of his friend Gainsborough. He died July 12, 1803.

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