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AYRTON, WILLIAM (1777–1858), musical writer, younger son of Dr. Ayrton [see Ayrton, Edmund], was born in London in 1777. On 17 May 1803 he married Marianne, the daughter of Dr. Arnold, the composer. In 1816 he went abroad to engage singers for the Italian opera at the King's theatre, of which he undertook the direction in the following year, producing for the first time in England Mozart's 'Don Giovanni,' and introducing to English audiences such great artists as Pasta, Camporese, Crivelli, and Ambrogetti. In spite of a very successful season Ayrton was obliged by the disputes of the company to retire from the direction. In 1821 he again (under the management of Ebers) took the post of musical director, but owing to the factious opposition he encountered from the committee he was again forced to resign. The remainder of his life he devoted entirely to literary pursuits, in which, both as a critic and writer in music, he occupied for many years a position far in advance of his contemporaries. From 1823 to 1833 he edited and contributed largely to the 'Harmonicon,' a periodical the value of which has hardly been exceeded by any of its successors. In 1834-5 he published his 'Sacred Minstrelsy,' and in 1834-5-6 the work known as the 'Musical Library,' one of the earliest and best cheap collections of vocal and instrumental music. Ayrton was a F.R.S., a F.S.A., and one of the original members of the Royal Institution and the Athenæum Club. He died at Bridge Street, Westminster, 8 March 1858.

Ebers's Seven Years of the King's Theatre (1828); Annual Register for 1808; Chester's Registers of Westminster Abbey (1875); Gent. Mag. for 1803.]

W. B. S.