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the chromatic richness of his symphonies, and the elaborate variety of his harmonies. We might cite the example of the admirable Haydn, who has sported through all the mazes of musical science, in his arrangement of the simplest Scottish melodies ; but it appears to me, that Sir John Stevenson has brought a national feeling to this task, which it would be in vain to expect from a foreigner, however tasteful or judicious. Through many of his own compositions we trace a vein of Irish sentiment, which points him out as peculiarly suited to catch the spirit of his country's music; and, far from agreeing with those fastidious critics who think that his symphonies have nothing kindred with the airs which they introduce, I would say that, in general, they resemble those illuminated initials of old manuscripts, which are of the same character with the writing which follows, though more highly coloured and more curiously ornamented.
In those airs, which are arranged for voices, his skill has particularly distinguished itself ; and, though it cannot be denied that a single melody most naturally expresses the language of feeling and passion, yet often, when a favourite strain has been dismissed, as having lost its charm of novelty for the ear, it returns, in a harmonised shape, with new claims upon our interest and attention ; and to those who study the delicate artifices of composition, the construction of the inner parts of these pieces must afford, I think, considerable satisfaction. Every voice has an air to itself, a flowing succession of notes, which might be heard with pleasure, independently of the rest — so artfully has the harmonist (if I may thus express it) gavelled the melody, distributing an equal portion of its sweetness to every part.
If your Ladyship's love of Music were not known to me, I should not have hazarded so long a letter upon the subject; but as, probably, I may have presumed too far upon your partiality, the best revenge you can take is to write me just as long a letter upon Painting; and I promise to attend to your theory of the art, with a pleasure only surpassed by that which I have so often derived from your practice of it. — May the mind which such talents adorn con. tinue calm as it is bright, and happy as it is virtuous !
Believe me, your Ladyship’s
Tas Number of the Melodies ought to have appeared much earlier; and the writer of the words is ashamed to confess, that the delay of its publication must be imputed chiefly, if not entirely, to him. He finds it necessary to make this avowal, not only for the purpose o removing all blame from the publisher, but in consequence of a rumour, which has been circulated industriously in Dublin, that the Irish Government had interfered to prevent the continuance of the Work.
This would be, indeed, a revival of Henry the Eighth’s enactments against Minstrels, and it is flattering to find that so much importance is attached to our compilation, even by such persons as the inventors of the report. Bishop Lowth, it is true, was of opinion that one song, like the Hymn to Harmodius, would have done more towards rousing the spirit of the Romans, than all the Philippics of Cicero. But we live in wiser and less musical times ; ballads have long lost their revolutionary powers, and we question if even a “ Lillibullero would produce any very serious consequences at present. It is needless, therefore, to add, that there is no truth in the report ; and we trust that whatever belief it obtained was founded rather upon the character of the Government than of the Work.
The Airs of the last Number, though full of originality and beauty, were, perhaps, in general, too curiously selected to become all at once as popular as, we think, they deserve to be. The Public are remarkably reserved towards new acquaintances in music, which, perhaps, is one of the reasons why many modern composers introduce none but old friends to their notice. Indeed, it is natural that persons who love music only by association, should be slow in feeling the charms of a new and strange melody ; while those, who have a quick sensibility for this enchanting art, will as naturally seek and enjoy novelty, because in every variety of strain they find a fresh
combination of ideas; and the sound has scarcely reached the ear, before the heart has rapidly translated it into sentiment. After all, however, it cannot be denied that the most popular of our National Airs are also the most beautiful ; and it has been our wish in the present Number, to select from those Melodies only which have long been listened to and admired. The least known in the collection is the Air of “ Love's Young Dream;" but it is one of those easy, artless strangers, whose merit the heart acknowledges instantly.
It is but fair to those who take an interest in this work, to state that it is now very near its termination, and that the Sixth Number, which shall speedily appear, will, most probably, be the last of the series. Three volumes will then have been completed, according to the original plan, and the Proprietors desire me to say that a List of Subscribers will be published with the concluding Number.
It is not so much from a want of materials, and still less from any abatement of zeal or industry, that we have adopted the resolution of bringing our task to a close; but we feel so proud, for our country's sake and our own, of the interest which this purely Irish Work has excited, and so anxious lest a particle of that interest should be lost by any ill-judged protraction of its existence, that we think it wiser to take away the cup from the lip, while its flavour is yet, we trust, fresh and sweet, than to risk any longer trial of the charm, or give so much as not to leave some wish for more. In speaking thus, I allude entirely to the Airs, which are, of cuarse, the main attraction of these volumes; and though we have still many popular and delightful Melodies to produce *, yet it cannot be denied that we should soon experience some difficulty in equalling the richness and novelty of the earlier numbers, for which, as we had the choice of all before us, we naturally selected only the most rare and beautiful. The Poetry, too, would be sure to sympathise with the decline of the Music ; and, however feebly my words have kept pace with the excellence of the Airs, they would follow their falling off, I fear, with wonderful alacrity. So that, altogether, both pride and prudence counsel us to stop, while the Work is yet, we believe, flourishing and attractive, and in the imperial attitude “ stantes mori," before we incur the charge either of altering for the worse, or what is equally unpardonable, continuing too long the same.
We beg, however, to say, it is only in the event of our failing to find Airs as exquisite as most of those we have given, that we mean thus to anticipate the natural period of dissolution - like those Indians who put their relatives to death when they become feebleand they who wish to retard this Euthanasia of the Irish Melodies, cannot better effect it than by contributing to our collection, not what are called curious Airs, for we have abundance of them, and they are, in general, only curious, but any real sweet and expressive Songs of our Country, which either chance or research may have brought into their hands.
T. M. Mayfield Cottage, Ashbourne,
* Among these is Savourna Declish, which I have hitherto only withheld from the diffidence I feel in treading upon the same ground with Mr. Campbell, whose beautiful words to this fine Air have taken too strong possession of all ears and hearts, for me to think of producing any impression after him. I suppose, however, I must attempt it for the next Number,
In presenting this Sixth Number to the Public as our last, and bidding adieu to the Irish Harp for ever, we shall not answer very confidently for the strength of our resolution, nor feel quite sure that it may not prove, after all, to be only one of those eternal farewells which a lover takes of his mistress occasionally. Our only motive, indeed, for discontinuing the Work was a fear that our treasures were nearly exhausted, and an unwillingness to descend to the gathering of mere seed-pearl, after the very valuable gems it has been our lot to string together. The announcement, however, of this intention, in our Fifth Number, has excited a degree of anxiety in the lovers of Irish Music, not only pleasant and flattering, but highly useful to us; for the various contributions we have received in consequence bave enriched our collection with so many choice and beautiful Airs, that if we keep to our resolution of publishing no more, it will certainly be an instance of forbearance and self-command unexampled in the history of poets and musicians. To one Gentleman in particular, who has been many years resident in England, but who has not forgot, among his various pursuits, either the language or the melodies of his native country, we beg to offer our best thanks for the many interesting communications with which he has favoured us; and we trust that he and our other friends will not relax in those efforts by which we have been so considerably assisted; for, though the work must now be considered as defunct, yetReaumur, the naturalist, found out the art of making the cicada sing after it was dead - it is not impossible that, some time or other, we may try a similar experiment upon the Irish Melodies.
T. M. Mayfield, Ashbourne,