A Genealogical Record of John Spofford and Elizabeth Scott


THE love of music is a characteristic so strongly marked in most of those who bear our common family name, and so great is the interest manifested by many in him whose name stands at the head of this page, that we take pleasure in introducing here a biographical sketch of one who attained somewhat of celebrity in the early part of the present century as a professional musician and musical composer; whose works are perhaps mostly represented in the minds of many by the familiar glees "Hail, Smiling Morn," and "Hark! the Lark at Heaven's Gate Sings"; with the majestic old hymn tune, "Tolland."

We are enabled to do this through the courtesy of Mr. Richard S. Spofford, who obtained in England a volume of the published works of Mr. Spofforth, containing about fifty glees, arranged for varying numbers of voices, from three to eight; the compositions, by their sprightliness and their tenderness, proving their author to have been possessed of talents of great versatility and breadth.

The book contains a memoir of Mr. Spofforth, written by one who is evidently an admirer and a warm personal friend.

We give but an abstract of this quite extended tribute, but enough to serve as a portrayal in outline of a character of great refinement and artistic feeling.--A. T. S.

"Reginald, the son of William and Elizabeth Spofforth, was born at Southwell, Nottinghamshire, England, in the year 1770, being the eldest of a very large family.

"Southwell is famous for its venerable collegiate church and its ecclesiastical establishment, and Mr. Thomas Spofforth--an uncle of Reginald--was for many years its organist, justly acquiring celebrity, not only for his instruction on the organ, but for the order and regularity of the choir, so that his pupils obtained preference in several cathedrals. The nephew gave early indication of his talent in music, which the old gentleman--an enthusiast in his profession--hailed with delight, and took upon himself the care and expense of his education; the young Reginald being articled to his uncle and placed in the choir as a singing boy.

"Attendance at school twice a day and church duties as often left little time for practice, but such was his zeal and the rapidity of his progress, that early in his apprenticeship he was able to officiate as organist in his uncle's place.

"Frequent concerts at Southwell and the adjacent towns gave opportunities for the exhibition of young Spofforth's skill with the harpsichord and the violin, and Sir Richard Kaye, Dean of Lincoln, being present at one of these entertainments, was so much pleased with his efforts that he invited him to his house and gave him the situation of organist at Lincoln Cathedral, a position which he resigned--at the age of nineteen!--that he might seek a broader field in London.

"A letter from his friend, the Dean, introduced him to Dr. Cooke, organist of St. Peter's, with whom he was a favored pupil three or four years, frequently executing the Doctor's professional duties in church.

"At the suggestion of his teacher, he competed, in 1793, for prizes offered by the 'Noblemen's and Gentlemen's Catch Club' for 'serious' and 'cheerful' glees. He won both prizes with his compositions, 'Where are those hours?' and 'See, smiling from the rosy East.'(1) A year later we find him at work arranging orches tral music and drilling the chorus at Covent Garden Theatre, as a means of strengthening his pecuniary resources, but he declined the very flattering offer of musical composer of the theatre, long held by Mr. Shields, lest the sudden calls to produce music on emergency might too severely tax his nervous energies, which were never strong.

"While shrinking from private society through his great shyness and sensitiveness, he was active in the several musical enterprises of his time in London; associating with such men as Dr. J. W. Colcott, Robert Cooke, the Webbes, and Thomas Greatorex, in the management of the Concentores, a society of twelve members holding monthly meetings for the trial of manuscript compositions, and for musical discussion and criticism, and The Madrigal Society, which was organized in 1741 and still flourishing in 1830, and of which Mr. Spofforth was at one time conductor.

"Though his infirm health and natural timidity impaired his ??as a public performer upon the pianoforte, he was much ??s a teacher, and in that calling he was patient, thorough, ??inently successful; so laborious withal, that he frequently ??en or twelve hours without pausing for refreshment.

?? ill-judged attention to professional work so depleted his ?? that he retired from teaching; and having received a ??nd ample legacy from the uncle who, in his youth, per??is genius and opened the way for a development of his ??he sought a home with his sister in Brompton, where he ??t. 8, 1827, a bachelor, in his fifty-eighth year; his remains, ??terred under the church at Kensington."

(1) For three voices, and similar in character to "Hail, Smiling Morn."--A. T. S.

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