Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Davies, Marianne

DAVIES, MARIANNE (1744–1816?), musician, born in 1744, was the daughter of a flautist, and made her first appearance at Hickford's Rooms, Brewer Street, on 30 April 1751, when she played a concerto on the German flute and a concerto by Handel on the harpsichord, besides taking the principal part in a ‘Full Piece for two Flutes’ and orchestra, and singing some songs. At this time her father lived ‘opposite the Golden Leg in Long Acre.’ In 1762 Benjamin Franklin invented a musical instrument consisting of a series of glasses fixed on an axle, which was moved by a treadle, and played and tuned something like ordinary musical glasses. This he called the ‘armonica.’ It is generally said that Franklin was a relation of the Davies family; but this statement is not confirmed by the pedigree of the Franklin family (Sparks, Life and Works of Franklin, i. 546). The instrument, however, seems to have become the sole property of Marianne Davies, and on 18 Feb. 1762 she performed on it in public at ‘the Great Room in Spring Gardens, appearing also as a vocalist and harpsichord player. Her father ‘occasionally accompanied’ her on the flute. On 31 July her advertisement announced that ‘the Cherokee kings and the two chiefs will be at the Great Room in Spring Gardens to hear Miss Davies perform.’ She appeared continually until the middle of August 1762, and from 10 Feb. until 13 Aug. 1763 at the Pillar and Gold Lamp in the Haymarket, and from 15 Aug. to 7 Oct. at the Swan and Hoop, Cornhill. The Davies family seem to have gone abroad until July in the following year, when they were in London again, and performed at Spring Gardens and Cornhill from 9 July to 8 Sept. They visited Paris after this, and, according to Pohl (Mozart in London, 61, 162), were several months in Ireland. In June 1767 they were again in London, living in Coventry Court, Haymarket, and performing at the auction rooms, Pall Mall, and the Swan and Hoop, Cornhill, where they gave their last concert on 14 Aug. For the next six years they were abroad, principally in Vienna and Italy. Marianne Davies continued to perform on the armonica, but as a vocalist she was far surpassed by her younger sister Cecilia [q. v.] Their father died in England in December 1773, and Marianne Davies, whose nerves had been shattered by playing so much on an instrument of so peculiar a nature, retired from public life, and does not seem to have performed after 1784 or 1785. The date of her death is variously stated. Pohl (ib. 61, 162) conjectures it to have taken place in 1792, while Grove's ‘Dictionary’ gives it as 1793; but a writer in the ‘Musical World’ (i. 30, 47, ii. 143) in 1836 says that she died ‘almost twenty years ago,’ and that her sister, who was devotedly attached to her, never recovered her loss.

[Public Advertiser and General Advertiser, 1751–73; authorities quoted above and in article on Cecilia Davies.]

W. B. S.