[Musical manuscript]; Clarson, William Henry
Haddenham, Buckinghamshire: c. 1807-1820. Oblong notebook, 5.5 x 7 inches, contemporary brown paper boards backed in vellum. “Music" in ink to spine, signature of William Henry Clarson in ink to front pastedown, signature of “Miss Rebecca" in ink to rear pastedown, pencilled notes and figures to front pastedown and final blank. Binding worn, marginal closed tear to first leaf, trace of dampstain to foot of final blanks.
Manuscript of piano music compiled between 1807 and 1820 by the members of a Buckinghamshire family. Engraved piano scores were expensive in the early nineteenth century, so casual players copied their favorite pieces by hand; Jane Austen filled a series of notebooks in this way. The musical pieces here are transcribed onto hand-ruled staves over 178 pages, most in a single hand, followed by 18 blank leaves, one of which bears the pencilled lyrics to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," first published in 1806. The lively musical selections include excerpts from Handel and the Beggar's Opera, and a wide variety of social dances: marches, quick steps, minuets, reels and jigs. The history of the Napoleonic Wars can be traced over the course of the manuscript, from early martial lyrics -- “now rise ye brave, draw the sword, point the lance, And bid the bold cannon roll thunder to France" -- to the happy conclusion of “Lord Wellington's Return" and “The Olive of Peace." The collection also contains a local Buckinghamshire tune, “The Winslow March," and an original piece entitled “Clarson's Rondo," composed by a member of the family on March 22, 1814. The musical notation is bright and legible, waiting to be brought to life by a modern pianist. A compelling historical artifact, offering a window into Georgian domestic life.