1773 – 1775
In the winter of 1772 Thomas Anson told his friends in Staffordshire that he was going to London to die. He did not want to die at his Arcadian home at Shugborough. He was in his late seventies. His year of birth is unknown. He had made his will in 1771, in which he had specified annuities to Mr Kammell, Mr Stuart, Mr Kent, and Mr Stillingfleet (who died later that year), “Indian” Orme was to be left £500 and Sir William Bagot would have his collection of medallions. Anson was unmarried. He had purchased a neighbouring house for his sisters, and the bulk of the estate would go to his nephew, who would change his name to Anson and become the ancestor of the Earls of Lichfield. Anson was suffering from stomach problems, perhaps bowel cancer. In spite of his condition and his awareness that he could not live much longer he managed to arrange a further series of concerts at St James Square.
Elizabeth Harris wrote to her son on 23rd March 1773:
“…Friday at a breakfast and concert at Mr Anson’s at which all the fine world were assembled and all elegant to a degree…” (BURROWS & DUNHILL)
Thomas Anson died a week later, on 30th March 1773. His body was taken back to Staffordshire for burial at St Michael’s Church, Colwich, in a vault with no visible memorial, as he had requested. His concerts may have been opulent but his patronage of the arts, and perhaps his private life, had always been invisible.
His friend Thomas Pennant wrote:
“My much-respected friend the late Thomas Anson, Esquire, preferred the still paths of private life, and was the best qualified for its enjoyment of any man I ever knew; for with the most humane and the most sedate disposition, he possessed a mind most uncommonly cultivated. He was the example of true taste in this country; and at the time that he made his own place a paradise, made every neighbor partaker of its elegancies. He was happy in his life, and happy in his end. I saw him about thirty hours before his death, listening calmly to the melody of the harp, preparing for the momentary transit from an earthly concert to an union with the angelic harmonies.”
The story of the harp is true:
There is a list of bills to be paid at Anson’s death in the Staffordshire Record Office which includes:
‘For hire of harp £1 13s 6d’
Had the harp been played by Evan Evans, with whom Kammell had performed, at least, in 1769, 1770 and 1771?
On 3rd June Kammell wrote to Count Waldstein:
“My dear old good friend Mr. Anson the brother of the Admiral Anson, who defeated so much the Spaniards, died two months ago. I do not like to loose good friends, his death contributed a lot towards my illness, in his testament he left me 50 gineas yearly for the time of my life, my friend George Pitt, when he saw me so distressed after Anson’s death, he also gave me by the law 50 gineas yearly, now I have 100 gineas yearly which I can spend as I wish…” (FREEMANOVA 1)
When Thomas Anson died Robert Orme commissioned a bust of his friend from Nollekens. This would have been made from a death mask. At Orme’s death the bust was given to the Anson family. This unidentified bust at Shugborough is almost certainly it, the only definite portrait of Thomas Anson.
Thomas Anson’s death meant the end of the concerts at 15 St James Square, but their place was soon taken by a new series of private concerts organised by Lady Mayne (Frances Mayne, wife of Sir William Mayne, later 1st Baron Newhaven). She had been Thomas Anson’s next-door neighbour, living at 14 St James Square, now the site of The London Library. The concerts were held in a variety of different houses.
James Harris’s papers show that he paid Kammell for what seems to be his own series of subscription concerts in 1774 and 1775. Were these actually Lady Mayne’s concerts?
Though in the previous autumn Kammell had boasted that he was known as “the King of Performers” health and financial worries were increasing. There is no reason to doubt that Anson’s loss was the loss of a good friend, and upsetting simply as that, but the money would have been welcome. The 50 guineas a year would be worth over 150 times that today, perhaps £8000, doubled to £16,000 by George Pitt’s contribution, but Kammell was living in luxury in Half Moon Street, which leads into Piccadilly and was a very short walk away from St James Square.
In October 1772 he had hoped Count Waldstein would visit him and that his home would be fit to welcome him.
“The whole of my house is to your service, which your Excellency certainly will find suitable, just the furniture cost me over 1000 gineas and I pay over 700 (guldens) tax yearly…” (FREEMANOVA 1)
The 1000 guineas for furniture (over £150,000 today) sounds like an exaggeration. His land tax on the house at Half Moon St was £1 7s. about £180 today.
Land Tax Register for Half Moon Street, 1774
George Pitt’s had lived at Half Moon Street until 1770 and now lived in Hertford St. Pitt had been paying twice as much tax at Half Moon St as Kammell, £3 3s in comparison with £1 7s. Kammell was probably living in half of what had been Pitt’s house. Kammell’s family would continue to live at Half Moon St until shortly after his death.
Kammell had clearly been earning a good income, and it would be necessary to invest money in the hope of producing income. Earnings from his performing were always going to be unpredictable, and there was always the danger of ill health upsetting his career and reducing his income or stopping it entirely. He had a recurrent physical problem, rheumatic illness, which seriously affected the quality of his playing. He had written of depression in 1766 and this may also have been a threat. His family was growing throughout the 1770s and their future would have been a cause of anxiety.
There had a been a financial crisis in 1772 which had affected his savings but from about this time he began to invest heavily in the West Indies and America. The West Indies could be a source of enormous wealth, thanks to the sugar industry, but investment in America in the early 1770s could lead to disaster. In 1773 he and his friends might not have been able to foresee the effect of the War of Independence that would begin in April 1775.
The West India connection came from Kammell’s involvement with the immensely rich and very musical family of Richard Ottley, and his parents-in-law Sir William and Lady Young. His close connection with the Ottley family is shown by no less than four dedications of musical publications.
Sir William Young (1724/5 – 1788) was born in Antigua but lived in Kent in his early years. In 1763 France ceded its West Indian colonies to Britain and Young was sent to organise the sale of land in the newly acquired islands. He himself became one of the major property owners in Antigua, St Vincent, and Tobago, which included the ownership of the many slaves on which the sugar industry depended. Young lived in the West Indies between 1764 and 1773. From 1768 he was Governor of Dominica. He returned to England twice during these years. During his 1767 visit Zoffany painted the entire family. This picture shows Young, his wife, sons and daughters in 17th century “Van Dyke” fancy dress, Sir William is shown playing the cello and his daughter, Elizabeth, is holding a music book.
The family of Sir William Young, by Zoffany c1767. The family are shown in 17th century “Van Dyke” style fancy address. Lady Young was the dedicatee of Op. 6, her daughter Sarah Elizabeth (in red) became the second wife of Richard Ottley, Sir William was the dedicatee of the much later Op. 19.
While he was temporarily back in England in 1770 Young was able to put on a series of private concerts. James Harris’s diaries show that he was at no less than seven, held on Sunday afternoons. Carl Abel’s Symphonies Op. 10 are dedicated to Sir William and must date from this year and were presumably written for the private concerts. It can reasonably be assumed that Bach, Abel and Kammell all played in this series as they certainly appeared together at a great Young family event in the summer of 1770, the wedding of Young’s daughter and Richard Ottley.
Kammell’s Op. 6 is a set of “Six Notturni” dedicated to Lady Young, known as Lady Young of Delaford after her own family estate where the wedding celebrations took place. These must date from about 1770. The nocturnes may have been composed for Sir William Young’s private concert series, assuming Kammell performed in those, but the style of the pieces makes them seem ideal for the wedding celebration, as “table music”, music to accompany the various elaborate meals enjoyed on the day.
Sir William Young’s eldest daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, was the second wife of Richard Ottley. An unusually detailed description of their wedding survives in a letter from one of the guests, a Miss Ford, to her friend Miss Egan, written on July 9th 1770. This lavish event at Iver, Buckinghamshire, featured a variety of musical performances, the stars of which were Bach, Abel and Kammell. The entertainments were shared between the small “Cot” of the Ford family, and the Young’s country house at Iver, Delaford Place.
“The ceremony was performed with as much privacy as possible…The whole company, near forty in number were all adorned with favors, their liveried servants were composed of silver, which I believe is a very uncommon piece of elegance. Sir William’s generosity is much to be admired, he gave fifty pounds to be distributed amongst the Poor of the Parish, besides forgiving the rent of distressed tenants & relieving the necessities of many private families…
“Sir William prepared a fine Band of Musicians in the house to entertain the Bridal Pair till the time arrived to receive the compliments of their friends & neighbours upon their nuptials, & as we found they all intended to give entertainments on the occasion, my mother judged it proper ours should be the first, as our efforts to amuse could be but insignificant compared with the great festivals of our neighbours – in short a Breakfast in the garden was the only thing we could give, & as the morning seemed fine our friends seemed much pleased with the novelty of the Entertainment. It was impossible to receive forty people in our little Cot therefore a Tent was prepared in the middle of our long shady walk, which with a continued awning was so fixed in the trees as to be scarcely visible to the naked eye. It was decked with flowers disposed in festoons & other forms & under which was a long table ornamented with large china Baskets of natural flowers, jellies, Cakes & different refreshments for Breakfast.”
When the wedding party arrived “the French horns & other instruments, that were concealed in our little wood, struck up and the surprise seemed to plesse. After Breakfast we danced Country dances & Cotillons on different parts of the Green Turf.”
Sir William Young
“next gave a truly Princely Banquet. The courses of three times nine dishes, which made the number fifty four, afterwards a complete set dessert, consisting of the finest fruits, wines, and sweetmeats. A fine band of music Entertained us till the Dessert was served, when they were relieved by a famous set of catch singers. I never heard this kind of singing in such perfection. Their voices harmonised in a most enchanting manner. After this delicious entertainment the company divided into Parties of Billiards & Walking etc. We again assembled to gratify our Ears with the fine performers Bach, Abel, Kammel, Pas?? Etc & after the Concert & refreshing ourselves with Coffee Tea etc the Tabors and fiddles invited us to Country dances. We tripped it with great spirit till we were led to a very splendid repast. The band played as at dinner. When the sweet wines were offered the Catch singers again entertained us & between each everyone who had a title to a voice at the Table, sang a little solo Canzonette & the variety was not disagreeable. Thus finished a most sumptuous Entertainment which was conducted with the utmost ease & politeness.” (Thanks to William Young to quote this letter from his family archive.)
Could Kammell’s set of Notturnos have been performed on this occasion? They have the look of pieces designed for small orchestra as much as solo instruments and would be very suitable to accompany a dinner.
As part of his marriage settlement with Sir William Young’s daughter in Ottley purchased a large amount of land in Tobago.
Later the Ottley family, including his daughter with her piano, travelled to the West Indies but at this time Ottley had a house in Argyll St and a country house, Dunston Park, Thatcham, which was only 15 miles west of George Pitt’s house at Stratfield Saye. The house at Dunston Park no longer exists and the estate is part of Newbury.
The extraordinary musical life of the Ottleys at Dunston Park is vividly described in the unpublished diary of Richard Ottley’s daughter from his first marriage, Elizabeth. (I am very grateful for Nevilla Ottley for this information.)
Miss Ottley, who was only 14 at the time, gives some quite startling details of Christmas at Dunston Park in 1771. There is no doubt that this was, indeed, at Dunston as she mentions someone arriving from the neighbouring village of Midgham. On Christmas Eve, she wrote:
“While we were at Dinner, Bach, Abel, Cramer & Grassi made their Appearance & informed us that poor Savoie was ill & could not come which I was sorry for. Mr Poyntz arrived in the Evening & we had a little touch at Blind Mans Buff & of another Game that Mr Borghi shewed us. After Supper played at Buzz, when I was so Blacked that I do not imagine I shall ever be able to get quite rid of it – Mercy upon me – I forgot to mention that we had a most delightful Concert, & I think Cramer a charming player, & likewise that he is very agreeable.”
On Christmas Day:
“That Amiable, Delightful Mrs Poyntz came & dined with us – sweet Creature – had another charming Concert after Tea, & another Game at Blind Mans Buff; & Puss in the Corner; our Party consisting of Cramer, Borghi, Grassi, Drewry, George, & Myself; After Supper had a Game at Romps the Bear – sweet Mrs Poyntz left us at half past Eleven. Forgot to mention that General Smith & his Wife & Son went this Morning with the other Gentleman whose name I have totally forgot – a Sign that he made no great impression upon me. “
On December 26th:
“Just as I had left the Gentlemen after dinner, & I was sitting in the Saloon with my Sisters & William, who should come into the Room but Monsieur Cramer; who told me that Monsieur Janson had desired him to give his Compliments to me. Bach & Abel were vastly Drunk, the former went to lie in Grassi’s Room; After Tea we all took Candles in our Hands & went up into Abel’s Room, who was sitting in a Chair fast asleep, & in my Life I think I never beheld so dreadful a figure; after hallooing as loud as they could to wake him they at length succeeded & he came down stairs & played upon the viola da Gamba most diabolically. Cramer played a Solo on the violin most charmingly & they made me play four Concerto’s of Bach’s. After Supper we went & played at Puss in the Corner & Buffaloes, however I very soon left the Gentlemen & retired to Bed.”
The next day:
“Bach, Abel, Grassi, & Cramer who I like vastly left us before Breakfast, was therefore sorry I had not taken leave of them in a proper Manner the Night before.”
Here, then, a few miles (and less than two hours ride) from George Pitt’s house, where Kammell’s daughter Lucy had been born two years earlier, were the leading musicians of the time enjoying themselves in a rather rowdy way. Madame Grassi was Johann Christian Bach’s wife, though there seems to be no record of when (or if) they were actually married.
Kammell’s Op. 8 is a set of “Solos” for violin and bass. These are the first published works which give any impression of the kind of music Kammell would have played himself. The sonatas of Op. 8 are in three movements, with a far more virtuosic violin part than any of his earlier publications. They have melodious first movements in clear sonata form, very much in the new classical style despite the use of a continuo bass line, which is published as figured bass line in the baroque style, which can be played by a cello with a keyboard instrument filling in the harmonies from the figures, the numbers which indicate the harmonies on the bass part. The middle movements are expressive song-like pieces of the sort that Kammell would play with maximum effect on the ladies in the audience. The third movements include some very showy variations.
(Op. 7 is a second set of String Quartets, dedicated to Countess Spencer, whose house had also been decorated by James “Athenian” Stuart.)
Op. 9 is the set of sonatas (or trios) for harp, or alternatively harpsichord or pianoforte, which are dedicated to “Miss Ottley”, the diarist Elizabeth Ottley, daughter of Richard Ottley and his first wife Elizabeth Warner. These are quite unlike the early Trios, which are works for two violins and a continuo bass. These are very clearly harp music and not piano music. The harp part can be played on its own without the violin and cello which are purely accompaniment. This is the usual style in piano trios written for the domestic market until the end of the 18th century. These works are in only two movements, a long sonata form movement and a short fast movement or minuet.
These sonatas were published in c1775 but it is tempting to think that they date back to Kammell’s concerts with Evan Evans, in which the cello would have been played by James Cervetto, and that they might even be the music that Thomas Anson was listening to as he awaited his transit to the heavenly harmonies.
Richard Ottley, by Gainsborough
From the evidence in Michaela Freemanova’s article on Kammell’s letters there were investments in both America and West Indies which would have been arranged or encouraged by William Young and Richard Ottley. In 1772 he had already lost £1000 on other investments and his financial position was very difficult with other money tied up with no income and these investments must have been made at about that time. The first loss of money was due to bad business at home. These foreign investments must have seemed like a good idea at the time. In Spring 1772 he was writing to Count Waldstein about his hopes for profit and his desire to return home. Waldstein was asking for money so Kammell was promising to bring his earnings back to Bohemia with him, but, considering his musical success and his growing family it is hard to believe that he seriously intended to abandon England.
It is worth pointing out that the £50 annuity from Thomas Anson had been promised in the will in 1771, when things were looking better. It was a gesture of friendship and not inspired by this financial crisis.
Later in 1772 he was complaining that he had lost almost everything and that he was thinking about selling his house and possessions. There was already fear of war and talk of selling the American land which he had invested in. A year later he was still thinking about selling the American land at a reduced price, but before anything was done about it the situation across the Atlantic worsened and by 1775 the colony was at war.
This was, undoubtedly, a disaster. All his American investment was lost – but there seems to be no further mention of the West Indian money.
There is no reason to suppose that Sir William Young and Richard Ottley were ever held to blame for the loss of money. Nothing could have been done by the war in America, which, after all, might not have resulted in independence. There was nothing financially wrong with investing in the West Indies. The sugar business continued to be profitable until disquiet about slavery grew strong enough later in the century to bring sugar and the methods of its production into question.
At the time when the future of Kammell’s investments was most uncertain he published “Six Dancing Minuets” composed for “a Select Assembly at Newberry.” Newbury was the neighbouring town of the Ottley’s Dunston Park.
The continuing friendly relationship with Sir William Young is proved by the dedication to him of one of Kammell’s last known works, a set of Notturni Op. 19 which cannot have been published any earlier than 1779.
The other publication which dates from this period is Op. 10, the only orchestral work published in London, a set of six overtures or symphonies. These appeared in 1775 but the set may include works that had been performed during the previous few years. These are small scale works, similar to early symphonies published by J. C. Bach and Abel. They are scored for two oboes (or flutes), 2 horns and strings, with the bass line intended to be filled in by a harpsichord. They can be played by an orchestra but they are designed to be performable by single instruments, even just by a string quartet. The publication has the grandest of Kammell’s dedications – to the Duke of Devonshire.
The likely opportunity for this dedication was the marriage of William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, who was only 25, with Georgiana Spencer, the daughter of Countess Spencer to whom Kammell had dedicated his Op. 7 String Quartets. His connection with Lady Spencer would have been through Thomas Anson and his architect James “Athenian” Stuart, who was working on interiors for Lady Spencer’s London House for many years. Georgiana, the new duchess, became one of the most glamorous and influential women in English society. This marriage took place on 7th June 1774.