Bishop, Henry Rowley (DNB00)

BISHOP, Sir HENRY ROWLEY (1786–1855), musical composer, was the son of a London merchant whose family came from Shropshire, and was born in Great Portland Street on 18 Nov. 1786. He seems to have received all his instruction in music from Francesco Bianchi, an Italian who came to England in 1793, where he lived for the rust of his life, enjoying a great reputation, not only as a composer,but also as a teacher, and theoretical musician. Bishop's earliest compositions are a set of twelve glees and several Italian songs, in all of which the influence of his master—an influence which remained with him throughout his life-is plainly discernible. In 1804 his first operatic work, ‘Angelina,’ was played at the Theatre Royal, Margate. He soon after began to write ballet music for the King’s Theatre and Drury Lane. At the former house the success of his ‘ Tamerlan et Bajazet ' (1806) led to his pemianent engagement, and he began at once to write the immense mass of compilations, arrangements, and incidental music which for thirty years he continued to produce. In this manner he was more or less concerned in ‘Armide et Renaud' (15 May 1806), ‘Narcisse et les Grâces’ (June 1806), and ‘Love in a Tub’ (November 1806). At Drury Lune he wrote or arranged music for ‘Caractacus,' a pantomime-ballet (22 April 1808), ‘The Wife of Two Husbands’ (9 May 1808), ‘The Mysterious Bride’ (1 June 1808), ‘The Siege of St. Quentin’ (10 Nov. 1808), besides contributing some new music to ‘The Cabinet.' Other works of this period are ‘The Corsair, or the Italian Nuptials,’ described as a 'pantomimical drama,' and ‘The Travellers at Spa,' an entertainment of Mrs. Mountain’s, for which Bishop wrote music. At the beginning of 1809 his first important opera, ‘The Circassian Bride,' was accepted at Drury Lane, and was brought out with great success on 23 Feb., but on the following night the theatre was burnt down, and the score of the opera, which Bishop subsequently rewrote from memory, perished in the flames. On 15 June of the same year his ballet, ‘Mora's Love,’ was performed at the King`s Theatre in the Haymarket, which was followed at the same house by ‘ The Vintagers' on 1 Aug. After the burning of Drury Lane the company of that house moved to the Lyceum Theatre, and here Bishop produced, on 13 March 1810, ‘The Maniac, or Swiss Banditti,’ which was acted twenty-six times. He was next engaged for three years as composer and director of the music at Covent Garden Theatre, where the first work upon which he was employed was the music to ‘The Knight of Snowdoun,' a musical drama, founded on Sir Walter Scott`s ‘ Lady of the Lake,' which was produced on 5 Feb. 1811, and was acted twenty-three times. This was followed in rapid succession hy ‘The Virgin of Sun’ (31 Jan. 1812), ‘The Æthiop’ (6 Oct. 1812), new music for ‘The Lord of the Manor’ (22 Oct. 1812), ‘The Renegade’ (2 Dec. 1812), ‘Haroun al Raschid,' a new version of ‘The Æthiop,’ produced on 11 Jan. 1813, and withdrawn after one performance, new music to ‘Poor Vulcan’ (8 Feb. 1813), ‘The Brazen Bust’ (29 May 1813), and ‘Harry le Roy' an ‘heroic pastoral bnrletta’ (2 July 1813). On the expiration of his first engagement at Covent Garden he was re-engaged for five years, during which his most noteworthy production was the music to the melodrama ‘The Miller and his Men,’ which was performed for the first time on 21 Oct. 1813, but received additions in 1814. In 1813, on the foundation of the Philharmonic Society, Bishop was one of the original members, but none of his compositions were performed by the new society until some ycars later. Indeed the whole of his energies at this time must have been devoted to his duties at Covent Garden, where he continued to produce in rapid succession a series of original compositions and compilations, which, though often of the slightest quality, must have kept him too frilly occupied to devote himself seriously to the cultivation of his undoubted talent. ‘The Miller and his Men’ was followed on 15 Dec. 1813 by ‘For England Ho !’ and this (in collaboration with Davy, Reeve, and others) by ‘The Farmer’s Wife' (1 Feb. 1814), ‘The Wandering Boys' (24 Feb. 181-1), ‘Hanover,' a cantata written for Braham and performed at the oratorios at Covent Garden in March 1814, ‘Sadak and Kalastrade’ (11 April 1814), fresh music to ‘Lionel and Clarissa' (3 May 1814), ‘The Grand Al1iance,’ announced as ‘an allegorical festival’ (13 June 1814), ‘Aurora’ and ‘Doctor Sangrado,’ both ballets (September 1814), a compressed version of Arne's ‘Artaxerxes,’ with recitatives by Bishop, and ‘The Forest of Bondy’ (both on 30 Sept. 1814), additional music in ‘The Maid of the Mill’ (18 Oct. 1814), a compilation from Boïeldieu's ‘John of Paris’ (12 Nov. 1814), ‘Brother and Sister,’ in collaboration with Reeve (1 Feb. 1815), ‘The Noble Outlaw’ (7 April 1815), ‘Telemachus’ (7 June 1815), ‘The Magpie or the Maid’ (15 Sept. 1815), ‘John du Bart’ (25 Oct. 1815), additions to ‘Cymon’ (20 Nov. 1815), ‘Comus’ (same year), and ‘Midsummer Night's Dream’ (17 Jan. 1816), ‘Guy Mannering,’ a collaboration with Attwood, Whittaker, and others, Bishop's best work in it being the famous glee ‘The Chough and Crow’ (12 March 1816), ‘Who wants a Wife’ (16 April 1816), a version of Kreutzer's ‘Lodoiska’ (15 Oct. 1816), ‘The Slave’ (12 Nov. 1816), ‘Royal Nuptials’ (November 1816), ‘The Humourous Lieutenant’ (18 Jan. 1817), ‘The Heir of Vironi’ (27 Feb. 1817), ‘The Apostate’ (13 May 1817), ‘The Libertine,’ a very free adaptation of Mozart's ‘Don Juan’ (20 May 1817), ‘The Duke of Savoy’ (29 Sept. 1817), and ‘The Father and his Children’ (25 Oct. 1817). In 1816 and 1817, in addition to his post at Covent Garden, Bishop was director of the music at the King's Theatre in the Haymarket, where he wrote music for ‘Exit by Mistake,’ a comedy ballet (22 July 1816), and ‘Teasing made Easy’ (30 July 1817). But Covent Garden remained the chief scene of his labours, and here during the next few years he wrote or adapted music for the following plays and operas: ‘The Illustrious Traveller’ (3 Feb. 1818), ‘Fazio’ (5 Feb. 1818), ‘Zuma,’ in collaboration with Braham (21 Feb. 1818), additions to ‘The Devil's Bridge’ (11 April 1818), ‘X Y Z’ (13 June 1818), ‘The Burgomaster of Saardam’ (23 Sept. 1818), ‘The Barber of Seville,’ a version of Rossini's opera (13 Oct. 1818), ‘The Marriage of Figaro,’ a free adaptation from Mozart (6 March 1819), ‘Fortunatus and his Sons’ (12 April 1819), ‘The Heart of Midlothian’ (17 April 1819), ‘A Roland for an Oliver’ (29 April 1819), ‘Swedish Patriotism’ (19 May 1819), ‘The Gnome King’ (6 Oct. 1819), ‘The Comedy of Errors’ (11 Dec. 1819), ‘The Antiquary’ (25 Jan. 1820), ‘Henri Quatre’ (22 April 1820), ‘Montoni’ (3 May 1820), ‘Bothwell Brigg’ (22 May 1820), ‘Twelfth Night’ (8 Nov. 1820), ‘Don John’ (20 Feb. 1821), music to ‘Henry IV,’ part ii. (25 June 1821), ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ (29 Nov. 1821), ‘Montrose’ (14 Feb. 1822), ‘The Law of Java,’ which contains the well-known ‘Mynheer van Dunck’ (11 May 1822), ‘Maid Marian’ (3 Dec. 1822), ‘The Vision of the Sun’ (31 March 1823), ‘Clari’ (8 May 1823), in which Bishop introduced or composed (for the origin of the tune is a matter of dispute) the ever-popular ‘Home, sweet Home,’ ‘The Beacon of Liberty’ (8 Oct. 1823), ‘Cortez’ (5 Nov. 1823), ‘The Vespers of Palermo’ (12 Dec. 1823), ‘Native Land’ (10 Feb. 1824), ‘Charles II’ (9 May 1824), and ‘As you like it’ (10 Dec. 1824). With the last-named work Bishop's long connection with Covent Garden terminated. In 1819 he had entered into partnership with the management of the theatre in conducting the so-called ‘oratorios,’ concerts of the most heterogeneous description, which were given at the opera-houses during Lent, and in 1820 Bishop became the sole manager of these curious entertainments. His management, however, ceased after one season. In the autumn of the same year he went to Dublin, where he was received with great honour, the freedom of the city being unanimously voted and bestowed upon him (2 Aug. 1820). In 1825 Bishop was engaged by Elliston at Drury Lane, where he produced on 19 Jan. 1825 ‘The Fall of Algiers.’ This was followed by versions of Auber's ‘Masaniello’ (17 Feb. 1825), and Rossini's ‘Guillaume Tell’ (11 May 1825). In the same year he brought out a revised version of his early work, ‘Angelina,’ and wrote (in collaboration with Cooke and Horn) music to ‘Faustus’ (16 May) and the ‘Coronation of Charles X’ (5 July). The year 1826 was memorable in the annals of music in England for the production of Weber's ‘Oberon’ at Covent Garden, under the composer's own direction. By way of a counter-attraction, the management of Drury Lane commissioned Bishop to write a grand opera on the subject of ‘Aladdin.’ He took more than usual pains over this work, the composition of which occupied him for at least a year, but the book was even worse than that of ‘Oberon,’ and the music, though written with much care, was found to be inferior to Bishop's best compositions, probably because, by attempting to meet Weber on his own ground, he had only succeeded in producing a weak imitation of the style of the German master. ‘Aladdin,’ which was produced on 29 April 1826, shortly after Weber's opera, was followed by several unimportant works, ‘The Knights of the Cross’ (29 May 1826), ‘Englishmen in India’ (27 Jan. 1827), ‘Edward the Black Prince’ (28 Jan. 1828), and ‘Don Pedro’ (10 Feb. 1828). Bishop's permanent connection with Drury Lane ceased about this time, and his remaining writings for the stage were produced as follows: ‘The Rencontre’ (Haymarket, 12 July 1828), ‘Yelva’ (Covent Garden, 5 Feb. 1829), ‘Home, sweet Home’ (Covent Garden, 19 March 1829), ‘The Night before the Wedding,’ a version of Boïeldieu's ‘Les Deux Nuits’ (Covent Garden, 17 Nov. 1829), ‘Ninetta’ (Covent Garden, 4 Feb. 1830), ‘Hofer’ (Drury Lane, 1 May 1830), ‘Under the Oak’ (Vauxhall, 25 June 1830), ‘Adelaide, or the Royal William’ (Vauxhall, 23 July 1830), ‘The Romance of a Day’ (1831), ‘The Tyrolese Peasant’ (Drury Lane, May 1832), ‘The Election’ (Drury Lane, 1832), which was composed by Carter, but scored by Bishop, ‘The Magic Fan’ (Vauxhall, 18 June 1832), ‘The Sedan Chair’ (Vauxhall, 1832), ‘The Sedan Chair’ (Vauxhall, 1832), ‘The Bottle of Champagne’ (Vauxhall, 1832), and ‘The Demon,’ a version of Meyerbeer's ‘Robert le Diable,’ in which he collaborated with T. Cooke and R. Hughes (Drury Lane, 1832). He also wrote music for ‘Hamlet’ at Drury Lane (1830), for Stanfield's diorama at the same theatre (1830), and for ‘Kenilworth’ (1832), ‘Waverley’ (1832), ‘Manfred’ (1834), ‘The Captain and the Colonel’ (1835), and ‘The Doom Kiss’ (1836). The long list of Bishop's writings for the stage is closed by ‘Rural Felicity’ (Haymarket, 9 June 1839), additions to ‘The Beggars' Opera’ (Covent Garden, 1839), music to ‘Love's Labour's Lost’ (1839), and the masque of ‘The Fortunate Isles,’ written to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria, and produced at Covent Garden under Madame Vestris's management on 12 Feb. 1840.

In 1830 Bishop left Drury Lane and was appointed musical director of Vauxhall Gardens, which post he occupied for three years. In 1832 he was commissioned by the Philharmonic Society to write a work for their concerts, in fulfilment of which he composed a sacred cantata, ‘The Seventh Day,’ which was performed in the following year, without, however, achieving any great success. Two years later (1836) another cantata of Bishop's, ‘The Departure from Paradise,’ was sung at the same concerts by Malibran. Other cantatas composed by him are ‘Waterloo’ (performed at Vauxhall in 1826), and a setting of Burns's ‘Jolly Beggars.’ In 1838, according to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (1838, i. 539), he was appointed composer to her majesty; but this statement is proved to be inaccurate by the absence of any record of his appointment in the official documents of the lord steward's and lord chamberlain's offices, as well as by the fact that in 1847 he was desirous of obtaining the post on its becoming vacant. In the following year he received the degree of Mus. Bac. at Oxford. He was for some time professor of harmony and composition at the Royal Academy of Music, and in November 1841 was elected to the Reid professorship at Edinburgh, which appointment he continued to hold until December 1843, when he was succeeded by Henry Hugo Pierson. From 1840 to 1848 he conducted the Antient Concerts, and in 1842 he was knighted by the queen, this being the first occasion on which a musician had been so honoured. In 1848 he succeeded Dr. Crotch as professor of music at Oxford, where in 1853 he received the degree of Mus. Doc., his exercise being an ode performed on the installation of the Earl of Derby as chancellor of the university.

Between 1819 and 1826 Bishop had been occupied at various times with arranging different ‘Melodies of Various Nations’ and ‘National Melodies’ to English words, and in 1851 he began a similar undertaking, his collaborator in this case being Dr. Charles Mackay. Of these arrangements, which are extremely free and much altered from the originals, Bishop wrote that he was more proud than of any musical composition that he had ever produced. He also edited Handel's ‘Messiah’ and many other works. Though at one time Bishop must have been in receipt of a considerable income, he was extravagant in his habits and made no provision for his old age, in which he was harassed by pecuniary difficulties. In a letter (Egerton, 2159) written in 1840 he says: ‘I have worked hard, and during many a long year, for fame! and have had many difficulties to encounter in obtaining that portion of it which I am proud to know I possess. I have been a slavish servant to the public; and too often, when I have turned each way their weathercock taste pointed, they have turned round on me and upbraided me for not remaining where I was! … Had the public remained truly and loyally English, I would have remained so too! But I had my bread to get, and was obliged to watch their caprices, and give them an exotic fragrance if I could not give them the plant, when I found they were tired of, and neglecting the native production.’ In writing these words Bishop doubtless had in mind the failure of his ‘Aladdin,’ but the reason why in his later years he suffered from neglect was perhaps not so much the fault of the public as he thought. Possessed of a wonderful wealth of melody and great facility in composition, during the best years of his life he frittered away his talents on compositions which were not strong enough to survive beyond the season which saw their production; and worse than this, he not only wrote down to the level of the taste of the day, but in his adaptations from the works of great foreign musicians he altered and defaced them so as to bring them to a level with his own weak productions. If, as he complained, he suffered from the public taste veering round to the music of continental composers, it was in some sort a revenge brought about by the whirligig of time, for from no one did the works of the great masters receive worse treatment than they met with at the hands of Bishop himself. Amongst the manuscript scores in his handwriting which are preserved in the Liverpool Free Library there is a volume entirely consisting of ‘additional accompaniments’ (mostly for brass and percussion instruments), and alterations which he made in works by Beethoven, Mozart, Cherubini, Rossini, and many others, a volume which must ever remain a disgrace to the man who wrote it, and a record of the low state of musical opinion that could have allowed such barbarisms to be perpetrated without a protest. With regard to his original compositions, there is no doubt that his style was very much based upon that of his master Bianchi, as an examination of the somewhat rare compositions of the latter will show. But, though Bishop's music is in this respect less original than is usually supposed, he was possessed of a singularly fertile vein of melody, in which the national character can be perpetually recognised, although the dress in which it is presented is rather Italian than English. In this respect Bishop may be regarded as the successor of Arne, who in the latter part of his career came under the influence of the Italian school in which Bishop received his early training. In his glees Bishop was without a rival, and it is probable that it is on this form of composition that his future fame will rest; for his songs, with the exception of a very few, are even now but seldom heard, and it is safe to predict that the entire operas in which all his best glees and songs originally appeared will never bear revival.

Bishop was twice married. His first wife was a Miss Lyon, who came out as a singer at Drury Lane in ‘Love in a Village’ on 10 Oct. 1807, and to whom he was married soon after the production of ‘The Circassian Bride,’ in which opera and ‘The Maniac’ she sang small parts. By her he had two sons and a daughter. By his second wife [see Bishop, Ann] he had two daughters and a son.

During the greater part of his life he lived at 4 Albion Place and 13 Cambridge Street, Hyde Park. In his latter years he suffered much from cancer, and eventually died from the effects of an operation he underwent for that disease. His death took place at his house in Cambridge Street on Monday evening, 30 April 1855. He was buried on the Saturday following at the Marylebone Cemetery, Finchley Road, where a monument was erected to his memory by public subscription. The manuscript scores of most of Bishop's operas are preserved in the libraries of the British Museum, the Royal College of Music, and the Free Library of Liverpool. There are two portraits of him in the National Portrait Gallery, both by unknown painters. There are engravings of him (1) drawn by Wageman, engraved by Woolnoth, and published on 1 June 1820; (2) engraved by S. W. Reynolds from a painting by J. Foster, published in July 1822; and (3) engraved by B. Holl and published 1 April 1828.

[Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 245; Dictionary of Musicians, i. (1827); Add. MSS. 19569, 29905; Musical World, xxxiii. 282; Musical Times for April 1885; Athenæum, 5 May 1855; Fitzball's Memoirs, i. 152, 196, ii. 276; Parke's Memoirs, ii. 36; Gent. Mag. 1838, i. 539; manuscript scores in the Royal College of Music and Liverpool Free Library; Genest's Hist. of the Stage, viii. and ix.; information from Messrs. G. Scharf, H. Wakeford, Doyne C. Bell, and A. D. Coleridge.]

W. B. S.