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Clark, Richard (1780-1856) (DNB00)


CLARK, RICHARD (1780–1856), musician, was born at Datchet on 5 April 1781. He came of a musical family, for his mother was a daughter of John Sale the elder, a lay clerk of St. Georges Chapel, Windsor, when Clark was admitted at an early age as chorister, under Dr. Aylward. He also sang at Eton College, under Stephen Heather. In 1802, on the death of his grandfather, Clark succeeded him as lay clerk at St. George's Chapel and Eton College, both of which appointments he held until 1811. In 1805 was appointed secretary of the Glee Club, and about the same period occasionally acted as deputy at the Chapel Royal for Bartleman; at St. Paul's for his uncle J. Sale; and at Westminster for his uncle, J. B. Sale. On 3 July 1814 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Musicians. On 1 Oct. 1820 Clark was appointed a gentleman of the Chapel Royal, in the place of Joseph Corfe. He also acted as deputy-organist for J. Stafford Smith. In 1827 he became a vicar choral of St. Paul's Cathedral and in the following year a lay clerk at Westminster Abbey.

In 1814 Clark published a collection of poetry selected from the glees and catches sung at the Catch Club and other similar meetings. In the preface to this book was an account of the national anthem, in which the authorship was attributed to Henry Carey (d. 1743) [q. v.] A second edition appeared in 1824, in which this account was omitted, as two years previously Clark had started the still undecided controversy as to the authorship of 'God save the King' by publishing a pamphlet upon the subject, in which he attributed it—with more power of invention than critical acumen—to the Elizabethan composer, John Bull [q. v.] Although the untrustworthiness of Clark’s statements and the worthlessness of his criticisms have been repeatedly exposed, the erroneous idea which he was the first to circulate is still accepted in some quarters, probably owing to the lucky coincidence by which the alleged composer of the English national anthem a name so closely associated with Englishmen. Not content with this display of his powers of antiquarian research, in 1836 Clark brought out another remarkable work, ‘Reminiscences of Handel,’ in which he proved (to his own satisfaction) that the air known as ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’ must have been sung by a blacksmith at Cannons, near Edgware, of the name of Powell, and overheard by Handel. He showed his faith in this discovery by setting up memorials to Powell, and by buying an anvil which he believed was the identical one upon which the black-smith accompanied his song. Thanks to Clark, this implement is still preserved as a relic of Handel. These antiquarian vagaries were not in themselves of any harm, but unfortunately Clark advocated them with an energy worthy of a better cause, and thus through him two utterly unfounded ideas were very generally accepted as true. Much more useful were Clark's endeavours to obtain for the singing men and choristers of cathedrals the ancient privileges of which in course of time they had been deprived. In 1841 he returned once more to the subject of John Bull, and issued a prospectus for the publication of all the extant works of the Elizabethan composer. This, however, does not seem to have been responded to by the public. In 1843 Clark published an arrangement of an organ or virginal 'Miserere of Bull's, to which he fitted words; this was performed at Christ Church, Newgate Street, on 3 Aug. 1843, before the king of Hanover. In 1847 Clark advocated the erection of a monument to Caxton; his letters on this subject to the 'Sunday Times' were republished in pamphlet form. In 1852 he printed a small essay on the derivation of the word 'madrigal.' Besides these works, Clark was the composer of a few anthems, &c. He died suddenly at the Litlington Tower, Westminster Abbey, on 5 Oct. 1856.

[Grove's Dict. of Music, vol. i.; Chapel Royal Cheque Book; Records of Royal Soc. of Musicians; Musical Gazette, 18 Oct. 1856; Appendix to Bemrose's Choir Chant Book; Brit. Mus. Cat. The history of the 'National Anthem' discussion is well treated in a series of articles by Mr. W. H. Cummings in the Musical Times for 1878.]

W. B. S.