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who being in a garret, which was his workshop, hastened down stairs to inform himself who was playing this tune on the organ. When he found it was the child, he could hardly believe what he heard and saw. At this time he was exactly two years and three weeks old, as appears by a copy I have obtained of the register in the parish of St. George's Colgate, Norwich, signed by the reverend Mr. Tapps, minister. Nor can the age of this child be supposed to exceed this account by those who have seen him, as he has not only all the appearance, but the manners, of an infant, and can no more be prevailed on to play by persuasion than a bird to sing
It is easy to account for God save great George our king being the first tune he attempted to play, as it was not only that which his father often performed, but had been most frequently administered to him as a narcotic by his mother, during the first of his life. It had likewise been more magnificently played than he was accustomed to hear by Mrs. Lulman, the afternoon before he became the practical musician himself; and, previous to this event, he used to tease his father to play this tune on his organ, and was very clamorous when he did not carry his point.
When his mother returned, the father, with a look which at once implied joy, wonder, and mystery, desired her to go up stairs with him, as he had something curious to show her. She obeyed, imagining that some acquaintance or friend was arrived, or that some interesting ctent had happened during her absence; but was as much surprised as the father on hearing the child play the first part of God save great George our king. The next day he made himself master of the treble of the second part; and the day after he attempted the base, which he performed nearly correct in every particular, except the note immediately before the close, which, being an octave below the preceding sound, was out of the reach of his little hand.
In the beginning of November 1777, he played both the treble and base of Let ambition fire thy mind, an old tune which is, perhaps, now better known by the words to which it is sung in Love n a Village, Hope, thou nurse of young desire.
Upon the parents relating this extraordinary circumstance to some of their neighbours, they laughed at it; and, regarding it as the effect of partial fondness for their child, advised them by no means to mention it, as such a marvellous account would only ex
pose them to ridicule. However, a few days after, Mr. Crotch being ill, and unable to go out to work, Mr. Paul, a master-weaver by whom he was employed, passing accidentally by the door, and hearing the organ, fancied he had been deceived, and that Crotch had stayed at home in order to divert himself on his favourite instrument; fully prepossessed with this idea, he entered the house, and suddenly opening the dining-room door, saw the child playing on the organ while his brother was blowing the bellows. Mr. Paul thought the performance so extraordinary, that he immediately brought two or three of the neighbours to hear it, who propagating the news, a crowd of near a hundred people came the next day to hear the young performer, and, on the following days, a still greater number Alocked to the house from all quarters of the city; till at length the child's parents were forced to limit his exhibition to certain days and hours, in order to lessen his fatigue, and exempt themselves from the inconvenience of constant attendance on the curious multitude.
This account agrees in most particulars with a letter I received from Norwich, and of which the following is an extract:
6. There is now in this city a musical prodigy, which engages o the conversation and excites the wonder of every body. A boy,
son to a carpenter, of only two years and three quarters old, from “ hearing his father play upon an organ which he is making, has o discovered such musical powers as are scarcely credible. He “plays a variety of tunes, and has from memory repeated frag« ments of several voluntaries which he heard Mr. Garland, the “ organist, play at the cathedral. He has likewise accompanied a
person who played upon the flute, not only with a treble, but has « formed a base of his own, which to common hearers seemed “ harmonious. If any person plays false, it throws him in a passion “ directly; and though his little fingers can only reach a sixth, he “ often attempts to play chords. He does not seem a remarkable “ clever child in any other respect; but his whole soul is absorbed " in music.* Numbers crowd daily to hear him, and the musical “people are all amazement.”+
* This opinion seems to have been too hastily formed; for, independent of his musical talent, he appears to me possessed of a general intelligence beyond his age: and he has discovered a genius and inclination for drawing,
+ See opposite page.
The child being but two years and eight months old when this letter was written, his performance must have appeared considerably more wonderful than at present: for as he seems to have received scarce any instructions, and to have pursued no regular course of study or practice since that time, it can hardly be imagined that he is much improved. However, experience must have informed him what series or combination of sounds was most offensive to his ear; but such is his impetuosity that he never dwells long on any note or chord, and indeed his performance must originally have been as much under the guidance of the eye as the ear, for when his hand unfortunately falls upon wrong notes, the ear cannot judge till it is too late to correct the mistake. However, habit, and perhaps the delicacy and acuteness of another sense, that of feeling, now direct him to the keys which he presses down, as he hardly ever looks at them.
The first voluntary he heard with attention was performed at his father's house by Mr. Mully, a music-master; and as soon as he was gone, the child seeming to play on the organ in a wild and different manner from what his mother was accustomed to hear, she asked him what he was doing? And he replied, “ I am playing “ the gentleman's fine thing.:" But she was unable to judge of the resemblance: however, when Mr. Mully returned a few days after, and was asked, whether the child had remembered any of the passages in his voluntary, he answered in the affirmative. This happened about the middle of November, 1777, when he was only two years and four months old, and for a considerable time after he would play nothing else but these passages.
A musical gentleman of Norwich informed Mr. Partridge, that,
nearly as strong as for music; for whenever he is not at an instrument, he usually employs himself in sketching, with his left hand, houses, churches, ships, or animals, in his rude and wild manner, with chalk on the floor, or upon whatever plain surface he is allowed to scrawl. Painters may, perhaps, form some judgment of his music by his drawings.
His father, who has lately been in London, and with whom I have conversed since this account was drawn up, all the particulars of which he has confirmed, told me, that when he first carried the child to the cathedral be used to cry the instant he heard the loud organ, which, being so much more powerful than that to which he had been accustomed at home, he was some time before he could bear without discovering pain, occasioned perhaps, by the extreme delicacy of his ear, and irritability of his nerves.
at this time, such was the rapid progress he had made in judging of the agreement of sounds, that he played the Easter hymn with full harmony; and in the last two or three bars of hallelujah, where the same sound is sustained, he played chords with both hands, by which the parts were multiplied to six, which he had great difficulty in reaching on account of the shortness of his fingers. The same gentleman observed, that in making a base to tunes which he had recently caught by his ear, whenever the harmony displeased him, he would continue the treble note till he had formed a better accompaniment.
From this period his memory was very acute in retaining any tune that pleased him: and being present at a concert where a band of gentlemen-performers played the overture in Rodelinda, he was so delighted with the minuet, that the next morning he hummed part of it in bed; and by noon,
further assistance, played the whole on the organ.
His chief delight at present is in playing voluntaries, which certainly would not be called music if performed by one of riper years, being deficient in harmony and measure; but they manifest such a discernment and selection of notes as is truly wonderful, and which, if spontaneous, would surprise at any age. But though he executes fragments of common tunes in very good time, yet no adherence to any particular measure is discoverable in his volun. taries; nor have I ever observed in any of them that he tried to play in triple time. If he discovers a partiality for any particular measure, it is for dactyls of one long and two short notes, which constitute that species of common time in which many street-tunes are composed, particularly the first part of the Belleisle March, which, perhaps, may first have suggested this measure to him, and impressed it in his memory. And his ear, though exquisitely formed for discriminating sounds, is as yet only captivated by vulgar and common melody, and is satisfied with very imperfect harmony. I examined his countenance when he first heard the voice of seignor Pacchierotti, the principal singer of the opera, but did not find that he seemed sensible of the superior taste and refinement of that exquisite performer; however, he called out very soon after the air was begun, “ He is singing in f."
And this is one of the astonishing properties of his ear, that he can distinguish at a great distance from any instrument, and out of sight of the keys, any note that is struck, whether A, B, C, &c. In VOL. IV.
this I have repeatedly tried him, and never found him mistaken even in the half notes; a circumstance the more extraordinary, as many practitioners and good performers are unable to distinguish by the ear at the opera or elsewhere in what key any air or piece of music is executed.
But this child was able to find any note that was struck in his hearing, when out of sight of the keys, at two years and a half old, even before he knew the letters of the alphabet: a circumstance so extraordinary, that I was very curious to know when, and in what manner, this faculty first discovered itself; and his father says, that in the middle of January, 1778, while he was playing the organ, a particular note hung, or, to speak the language of organ builders, cyphered, by which the tone was continued without the pressure of the finger: and though neither himself nor his elder son could find out what note it was, the child, who was then amusing him. self with drawing on the floor, left that employment, and going to the organ, immediately laid his hand on the note that cyphered.* Mr. Crotch thinking this the effect of chance, the next day purposely caused several notes to cypher, one after the other, all which he instantly discovered: and at last he weakened the springs of two keys at once, which, by preventing the valves of the windchest from closing, occasioned a double cypher, both of which he directly found out. Any child, indeed, that is not an idiot, who knows black from white, long from short, and can pronounce the letters of the alphabet by which musical notes are called, may be taught the names of the keys of the harpsichord in five minutes;t but, in general, five years would not be sufficient, at any age, to impress the mind of a musical student with an infallible reminiscence of the tones produced by these keys, when not allowed to look at them.
Another wonderful part of his pre-maturity was the being able at two years and four months old to transpose into the most ex
This circumstance proves that he exercised his eye in drawing, after his manner, before he was two years and a half old.
† By remarking that the short keys, which serve for flats and sharps, are divided into parcels of threes and twos, and that the long key between every two short keys is always called d, it is extremely easy from that note to discover the situation and nam of the rest, according to the order of the first seven letters of the alphabet.