Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Linley, William
LINLEY, WILLIAM (1771–1835), author and musical composer, youngest son of Thomas Linley the elder [q. v.], was born at Bath in 1771. He was sent to St. Paul's School in February 1785 at the age of thirteen (Gardiner, St. Paul's School Reg. p. 185), and afterwards was removed to Harrow. Although not destined for the musical profession, he was taught singing by his father and counterpoint by Abel (Preface to Eight Glees). Linley entered the East India Company's service as a writer, and sailed for Madras in 1790. In 1791 he was appointed assistant under the collector of Madura and Dindigal, and in 1793 deputy secretary to the military board. He returned to England in 1796 to recruit his health, and entered into association with his brother-in-law, Sheridan, at that time manager of Drury Lane Theatre, where he brought out ‘Harlequin Captive, or Magic Fire,’ an entertainment, on 18 Jan. 1796; ‘The Honeymoon,’ comic opera, on 7 Jan. 1797; and ‘The Pavilion,’ entertainment, on 16 Nov. 1799 (afterwards altered to ‘The Ring,’ 1800). A manuscript score of ‘The Pavilion,’ dated 1796, is in Brit. Mus. Egerton MS. 2494. These pieces, of which Linley was both author and composer, met with a bad reception, although they contained much graceful music (see Kelly, Reminiscences, ii. 127). In 1800 Linley resumed his duties at Madras, becoming in 1801 paymaster at Nellore, and in 1805 sub-treasurer and mint-master to the presidency, Fort St. George. In 1806 he finally left India.
Linley settled in London, and devoted himself to musical composition, although he claimed for himself only the title of amateur. He joined the Catch and Glee Clubs, and was a member of the Madrigal Society from 1809 until his death, and of the Concentores Sodales. His ‘At that dread hour’ won the Glee Club prize in 1821; and his words for a requiem in memory of Samuel Webbe, 1816, were selected from among a number submitted as most suitable for musical setting by the committee. He occasionally visited Bath, and many of his anthems were performed at Bath Abbey Church and St. Margaret's Chapel, of which he was joint proprietor. His chief work was a collection in two volumes of Shakespeare's dramatic lyrics, 1816, the music by Purcell, Arne, and others, with many original numbers. Several of these, ‘Honour, riches,’ ‘Now the hungry lion,’ and ‘Lawn as white as snow,’ were popular enough to be republished in the ‘Shakespeare Vocal Magazine’ (1864, &c.), but generally Linley's music was too academic in style to please. He was an accomplished singer in his youth, and his rendering of a song by Purcell was the subject of Coleridge's sonnet, beginning ‘While my young cheek retains its healthful hues.’
Linley survived his brothers and sisters, and died, after a few hours' illness, at his chambers, Furnival's Inn, on 6 May 1835, aged 64. He was buried, the last of his name, in the family vault at St. Paul's, Covent Garden. His property was bequeathed to Elizabeth, only daughter of his sister, Mrs. Tickell [see Linley, Mary]. A portrait of Linley by Lawrence is at Dulwich College; another, by Lonsdale, was engraved by W. P. Sherlock, and published as a frontispiece to ‘Eight Glees.’ He left to Dulwich College many family portraits by Lawrence, Reynolds, and others.
Linley published: 1. Some songs sung in ‘Vortigern,’ 1796. 2. ‘Trip to the Nore,’ 1797. 3. ‘Flights of Fancy,’ a set of six glees, 1799? 4. ‘Six Canzonets, Duets,’ 1800. 5. ‘Eight Songs for Tenor or Soprano,’ with a preface, 1809. 6. ‘A Set of Canzonets,’ 1812? 7. ‘Shakespeare's Dramatic Lyrics,’ 2 vols. 1816. 8. ‘Requiem,’ 1820. 9. ‘Eight Glees,’ with preface and portrait (four of the glees republished from ‘Flights of Fancy’), 1830.
Linley left in manuscript forty glees, contained in two volumes, Additional MSS. 31715–16, British Museum. Some volumes of manuscript anthems and services, by William Linley and Ozias Thurston Linley, were in 1868 in the possession of B. St. J. B. Joule (see Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ii. 323).Linley was author of the following novels, &c.: 1. ‘Forbidden Apartments,’ 2 vols. 1800. 2. ‘Adventures of Ralph Roybridge,’ 4 vols. 1809, 12mo. 3. ‘Charles Leftley's Life and Writings, together with Poems by W. Linley,’ 1814. His verses on the death of Mrs. Sheridan are quoted in Moore's ‘Life of Sheridan,’ p. 499, and he composed a rhymed epitaph for the monument in Wells Cathedral over the remains of his father and sisters (see Phelp's Hist. of Somersetshire, ii. 83). A manuscript address for Drury Lane Theatre, 1812, is in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 27900, f. 23.
[Dict. of Musicians, 1827, ii. 69; Gent. Mag. 1835, p. 574; Dict. of Living Authors, 1816, p. 206; European Mag. 1796–9; Oliphant's Account of the Madrigal Society, pp. 15, 22; Russell's Life of Moore, ii. 174 et passim; Linley's letter to Sheridan, Addit. MS. 29764, f. 23; Bath Guardian, 16 May 1835.]