Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Danby, John

DANBY, JOHN (1757–1798), musician, was born (according to the date on his tombstone) in 1757, but nothing is known of his parentage or education. He was probably a member of the Yorkshire family of the same name. He seems to have been connected with the musical performances at Vauxhall and Ranelagh, for which many of his earlier songs were written. At this time he was living at 8 Gilbert's Buildings, Lambeth, but he afterwards moved to 26 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. On 6 March 1785 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Musicians. Between 1781 and 1794 Danby gained ten prizes from the Catch Club for his glees and canons; his best known composition of the former class, ‘Awake, Æolian lyre,’ gained a prize medal in 1783. Danby, who was a catholic, held the post of organist to the chapel of the Spanish embassy, for which he wrote several masses, motets, and magnificats, which are preserved in the chapel music library. These works are mostly written for two or three parts, and are inferior to his glees, which are some of the best of their kind. During the latter part of his life he lost the use of his limbs, from having slept in a damp bed. A concert was given for his benefit at Willis's Rooms on 16 May 1798, but at half-past eleven the same night Danby died at Upper John Street, Fitzroy Square. He was buried near the south wall of the western part of Old St. Pancras churchyard. The inscription on his tombstone is now nearly illegible, but it was printed in Roffe's ‘British Monumental Inscriptions’ (i. No. 44), in the appendix to which a sketch of the grave is given.

Danby published several songs; the following are his most important works: Glees, book i. [op. 1 ?]; ‘La Guida alla Musica Vocale,’ op. 2; Glees, book ii. op. 3; book 3, op. 4; ‘La Guida della Musica Instrumentale,’ op. 5; Glees, op. 6. The last collection of glees was published posthumously by subscription for the benefit of his widow and four infant children.

[Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 429 a; Europ. Mag. xxxiii. 359; Gent. Mag. lxviii. i. 448; Georgian Era, iv. 521; Morning Herald, 18 May 1798; Danby's Works; information from the Rev. R. B. Sankey.]

W. B. S.