Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Corfe, Arthur Thomas

CORFE, ARTHUR THOMAS (1773–1863), organist and composer, third son of Dr. Joseph Corfe [q. v.], was born 9 April 1773, at Salisbury, where his father was organist. In early life he was a pupil of a Mr. Antram of Salisbury, and in 1783 he became a chorister of Westminster Abbey under Dr. Cooke. He was for some time a pupil of Clementi for the pianoforte, and in 1796 he married Frances, daughter of the Rev. J. Davies, vicar of Padworth, Berkshire, by whom he had fourteen children. In 1804, on the resignation of his father, he succeeded him as organist of the cathedral, and by 1813 he had got the choir into a state of remarkable perfection, if we may believe the account given of the Salisbury service by a correspondent of the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ of that date. In 1828 he organised and undertook at his own risk a festival at Salisbury, which took place with very great success on 19–22 Aug. of that year. He himself conducted the whole of the performances, and his eldest son, John Davis Corfe (1804–1876), who was organist of Bristol Cathedral for more than fifty years, played the organ for his father. Among the solo singers were Miss Paton, Mme. Caradori-Allan, and Braham. Corfe's work as a composer is not remarkable. He wrote a service and a few anthems, besides some pianoforte pieces. He published also a good many arrangements of different kinds, and a book on ‘The Principles of Harmony and Thorough-bass.’ Towards the end of his life his health showed signs of failing, but he attended the daily service regularly until the end. On 28 Jan. 1863 he was found in the early morning dead, kneeling by his bedside as if in prayer. He was buried in the cloisters of the cathedral. Several of his sons were choristers at Magdalen College, Oxford. His fourth son, George, became resident medical officer at the Middlesex Hospital, and wrote several medical treatises. His younger son, Charles William (b. 1814), took the degree of Mus. Doc. (Oxon. 1852), and was organist of Christ Church, Oxford, from 1846 to his retirement shortly before his death on 16 Dec. 1883. He was appointed choragus to the university in 1860, and published several glees, part-songs, anthems, &c.

[Grove's Dict. of Music; Quarterly Musical Mag. x. 1, 140, &c.; Gent. Mag. 3rd ser. xiv. 394; Brown's Biog. Dict. of Musicians; information from the family.]

J. A. F. M.