vol II date / index
Sts. Nazarius and Celsus, A.D. 68. St. Victor, Pope, A.D. 201. St. Innocent I. Pope, A.D. 417. St. Sampson, A.D. 564.
There is at present in Berlin, a boy, between four and five years old, who has manifested an extraordinary precocity of musical talent. Carl Anton Florian Eckert, the son of a sergeant in the second regiment of Fencible Guards, was born on the 7th of December, 1820. While in the cradle, the predilection of this remarkable child for music was striking, and passages in a minor key affected him so much as to make tears come in his eyes. When about a year and a quarter old, he listened to his father playing the air "Schone Minka" with one hand, on an old harpsichord: he immediately played it with both hands, employing the knuckles in aid of his short and feeble fingers. He continued afterwards to play every thing by the ear. He retains whatever he hears in the memory, and can tell at once whether an instrument is too high or too low for concert pitch. It was soon observed that his ear was sufficiently delicate to enable him to name any note or chord which might be struck without his seeing it. He also transposes with the greatest facility into any key he pleases, and executes pieces of fancy extempore. A subscription has been opened to buy him a pianoforte, as he has got tired of the old harpsichord, and two able musicians have undertaken to instruct him.*
Eckert was pre-rivalled in England by the late Mr. Charles Wesley, the son of the rev. Charles Wesley, and nephew to the late rev. John Wesley, the founder of the religious body denominated methodists. The musical genius of Charles Wesley was observed when he was not quite three years old; he then surprised his father by playing a tune on the harpsichord readily, and in just time. Soon afterwards he played several others. Whatever his mother sang, or whatever he heard in the streets, he could, without difficulty, make out upon this instrument. Almost from his birth his mother used to quiet and amuse him with the harpsichord. On these occasions, he would not suffer her to play only with one hand, but, even before he could speak, would seize hold of the other, and put it upon the keys. When he played by himself, she used to tie him by his back-string to the chair, in order to prevent his falling. Even at this age, he always put a true bass to every tune he played. From the beginning he played without study or hesitation. Whenever, as was frequently the case, he was asked to play before a stranger, he would invariably inquire in a phrase of his own, "Is he a musiker?" and if he was answered in the affirmative, he always did with the greatest readiness. His style on all occasions was con spirito; and there was something in his manner so much beyond what could be expected from a child, that his hearers, learned or unlearned, were invariably astonished and delighted.
When he was four years old, Mr. Wesley took him to London; and Beard, who was the first musical man who heard him there, was so much pleased with his abilities, that he kindly offered his interest with Dr. Boyce to get him admitted among the king's boys. This, however, his father declined, as he then had no thoughts of bringing him up to the profession of music. He was also introduced among others to Stanley and Worgan. The latter in particular, was extremely kind to him, and would frequently entertain him by playing on the harpsichord. The child was greatly struck by his bold and full manner of playing, and seemed even then to catch a spark of his fire. Mr. Wesley soon afterwards returned with him to Bristol; and when he was about six years old, he was put under the tuition of Rooke, a very good-natured man, but of no great eminence, who allowed him to run on ad libitum, whilst he sat by apparently more to observe than to control him. Rogers, at that time the oldest organist in Bristol, was one of his first friends. He would often sit him on his knee, and make the boy play to him, declaring, that he was more delighted in hearing him then himself. For some years his study and practice were almost entirely confined to the works of Corelli, Scarlatti, and Handel; and so rapid was his progress, that, at the age of twelve or thirteen, it was thought that no person was able to excel him in performing the compositions of these masters. He was instructed on the harpsichord by Kelway, and in the rules of composition by Dr. Boyce. His first work, "A Set of Six Concertos for the Organ or Harpsichord," published under the immediate inspection of that master, as a first attempt, was a wonderful production; it contained fugues which would have done credit to a professor of the greatest experience and the first eminence. His performance on the organ, and particularly his extempore playing on that sublime instrument, was the admiration and delight of all his auditors.
The present Mr. Samuel Wesley, brother of the preceding, and born in 1766, also gave a very early indication of musical genius. When only three years of age, he could play on the organ; and, when eight years old, attempted to compose an oratorio. Some of the airs which he wrote for the organ were shown to Dr. Boyce, and occasioned the doctor to say, "This boy unites, by nature, as true a bass as I can do by rule and study." Mr. Wesley's compositions are in the highest degree masterly and grand; and his extempore performance of fugues on the organ astonishing. He produces from that solemn instrument all the grand and serious graces of which it is capable. His melodies, though struck out on the instant, are sweet and varied, and never common-place; his harmony is appropriate, and follows them with all the exactness and discrimination of the most studious master; his execution, which is very great, is always sacrficed to the superior charms of expression.*
To this be it added, that the intellectual endowments of Mr. Samuel Wesley equal his musical talents, and that the amiable and benevolent qualities of his nature add lustre to his acquirements. He is a man of genius without pretension, and a good man without guile.
Mountain Groundsel. Senecio montanus.
Dedicated to St. Innocent.
Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. The Parthenon, a new musical work typolithographied, notices this precocious musician on the authority of the German papers. [return]
2. These anecdotes of the present Mr. Samuel Wesley and his deceased brother, Charles, are from the "Biographical Dictionary of Musicians," a work before quoted, and praised as a most pleasant book. [return]