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

ECCLES, JOHN (d. 1735), musical composer, was the eldest son of Solomon Eccles [q. v.] As he learnt music from his father, who in 1667 had given up the art, though apparently only for a time, from conscientious scruples, we may assume him to have been born very near the middle of the century. He began composing for the theatre about 1681, and from that time till about 1707 he was constantly employed in this way, contributions by him occurring in no less than forty-six plays. Of course in many cases one or two songs were all that were required, and in the large majority of instances the music was composed by a number of persons in collaboration. The most important of the pieces for which he wrote music are as follows: ‘The Spanish Friar,’ ‘The Lancashire Witches,’ ‘The Chances,’ ‘Justice Busy,’ ‘The Richmond Heiress,’ ‘Don Quixote’ (with Purcell), ‘Love for Love,’ ‘Macbeth’ (not, of course, the much discussed ‘Macbeth Music’ attributed to Lock, but music for another version of the play, produced in 1696), ‘The Provoked Wife,’ ‘The Sham Doctor,’ ‘Europe's Revels for the Peace,’ ‘Rinaldo and Armida,’ ‘The Fate of Capua,’ ‘The Way of the World,’ ‘The Mad Lover,’ ‘The Novelty,’ ‘The Fair Penitent’ (last act), ‘The City Lady,’ ‘The Villain,’ ‘The Self-conceit,’ ‘She ventures, he wins,’ ‘The Princess of Persia,’ ‘Love's a Jest,’ ‘The Intrigue at Versailles,’ ‘The Country Wake,’ ‘She would if she could,’ ‘The Husband his own Cuckold,’ ‘As you find it,’ ‘The Italian Husband,’ ‘The Libertine’ (with Purcell), ‘The Midnight Mistakes,’ ‘Henry the Fifth,’ ‘The Duchess of Malfy,’ ‘Semele,’ ‘Love Triumphant,’ ‘The Biter,’ ‘Cyrus the Great,’ ‘The Innocent Mistress,’ ‘The Pretenders,’ ‘The She Gallants,’ ‘Sir Fopling Flutter,’ ‘Women will have their Wills,’ ‘The Morose Reformer,’ ‘The Lucky Younger Brother,’ ‘The Stage Coach.’ A song introduced into ‘Hamlet,’ beginning ‘A swain long slighted and defamed,’ is also found in the collections of Eccles's songs.

In 1704 he became master of the king's band of music, succeeding Dr. Nicholas Staggins. He had been a member of the band since 1700, in which year he competed for the prize offered for the best compositions to Congreve's ‘Judgment of Paris,’ and gained the second prize, the first being awarded to John Weldon. In the following year he set Congreve's ‘Ode on St. Cecilia's Day.’ The set of New-year and Birthday songs composed by him for the court seems to have begun in 1702–3 with a New-year's song. In the last years of his life these were the only compositions he undertook; he lived at Kingston in Surrey, and devoted himself to fishing. In 1710 he published a collection of his songs, and many of them are contained in the miscellaneous collections of the time. Some ground basses by him are in the ‘Division Violin.’ He died 12 Jan. 1735. His compositions have a certain ease and grace which is quite enough to account for their popularity at the time they were written; though infinitely inferior to Purcell in vigour and originality, Eccles possessed the knack of writing music that procured him public favour for many years. His airs would of course seem intolerably old-fashioned nowadays, while Purcell's compositions can never lose their power.

[Chamberlayne's Notitia, 1700 (in which the names of Solomon and John Eccles are given as Eagles, though that of Henry Eccles is rightly spelt); Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 481, ii. 185; Gent. Mag. v. 51; Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 12219; Joyful Cuckoldom, and other collections of songs containing compositions by Purcell, Eccles, &c.]

J. A. F. M.