Page 3 Profile: Thomas Arne, Composer of Rule, Britannia!

 

Oliver Duggan
Friday 28 September 2012 09:03
Comments

Don't you mean Edward Elgar?

No! David Cameron named Elgar as the composer of "Rule, Britannia!" on David Letterman's Late Show this week, but he was wrong. Following the PM's bungled answer there has been a frenzy to ensure the music is correctly attributed to Arne, an 18th-century British composer.

From humble beginnings (Arne's grandfather died in a debtors' prison), the London-born musician gained the patronage of Frederick, Prince of Wales. And it was at Frederick's country home, Cliveden, that that Arne's new song received its premiere.

So why the confusion?

The lyrics were written by James Thomson and set to music by Arne in 1740, but were referenced, or "borrowed" by Handel, the Jacobites, Alexander Guilmant, and Elgar – the PM's man. But it was Arne who originally penned the tune, and don't let anyone tell you different.

Sounds like a truly great Briton

Not quite the usual stereotype. Arne may be the composer of the UK's most patriotic song, but he was Catholic, so he never wrote music for the Church of England. The son of an upholsterer who managed to make enough money to send him to Eton, he sneaked a spinet into his dormitory while his peers slept, dampening the sounds of his keyboard practice with a handkerchief. In 1741 he became one of the first artists to claim legal damages under breach of copyright. His claim against a top London bookseller, which would evoke sympathy from most 21st century pop stars, was settled out of court.

And the difficult second album?

After the success of "Rule, Britannia!" Arne settled down to a life of modest fame. In 1755 he separated from his wife Cecilia, who he claimed was mentally ill, and began a relationship with one of his pupils, Charlotte Brent. However, shortly before his death in 1777, Arne and his wife were reconciled. They are both buried in St Paul's Covent Garden.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in