Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Needler, Henry

NEEDLER, HENRY (1685–1760), amateur of music, the last of the Needlers of Surrey, was born in London in 1685. As a young man he entered the excise office, and in March 1710 was appointed accountant for the candle duty, but through life he managed, without neglecting his profession, to practise music, ‘his only pleasure’ (Hawkins). His father, an accomplished violinist, give him his earliest lessons. Daniel Purcell taught him harmony (Grove), and the younger John Banister, first violin at Drury Lane Theatre, carried on his training. In due time Needler performed at the house of Thomas Britton [q. v.], ‘the musical small-coal man,’ and at weekly private concerts in noblemen's houses. He came to know Handel, who visited him in Clement's Lane, behind the church in the Strand, and he was an active member of the Academy of Vocal Music, a society meeting at the Crown Tavern in the Strand. Here he led the violins, and undertook librarian's and secretary's duties, cataloguing the music.

It is related that a volume of twelve of Corelli's concertos came accidentally into Needler's hands during a musical meeting, and that he and his friends forthwith played through the whole number. His admiration of Corelli led Needler to study his violin music until he excelled in its interpretation. He was in fact a fine and delicate performer, and equal to any difficulty before his arm grew stiff (Hawkins). Twenty-eight volumes of Needler's extensive transcriptions from the Oxford and other libraries are in the British Museum Addit. MSS. 5035 to 5062. He died on 8 Aug. 1760, in his seventy-fifth year, and was buried at Frindsbury, near Rochester, where, in the previous century, the Needlers had owned for a time the famous quarry house and lands. He married late in life, and had no children. Needler had inherited property at Horley, Surrey, of which he left by will the life interest to his widow Hester, and to his sister Elizabeth, and the reversion to other relatives and rightful heirs. A portrait of Needler, engraved by Grignion after Mathias, is given in Hawkins's ‘History of Music,’ 1776.

A volume of anthems composed by Mrs. Needler, and dated 1751, is in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 5053.

[Hawkins's Hist. of Music, pp. 791, 806; Grove's Dict. of Music, ii. 450; Autobiography and Correspondence of Mrs. Delany, i. 228; Archæologia Cantiana, xvii. 177; Records of the Acad. of Vocal Music, Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 11732; Registers of Wills, P. C. C. Lynch, 333; Official Registers of the Excise Office; inscriptions at Frindsbury Church, kindly supplied by the Rev. W. H. Jackson.]

L. M. M.