Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Oliphant, Thomas

OLIPHANT, THOMAS (1799–1873), writer and musical composer, was born 25 Dec. 1799, at Condie, Strathearn, Perthshire, in the house of his father, Ebenezer Oliphant; his mother was Mary, the third daughter of Sir William Stirling, bart., of Ardoch, Perthshire. After being educated at Winchester College and by private tutors, he became for a short time a member of the Stock Exchange, London, but soon relinquished commerce to devote himself to literature and music. In 1830 he was admitted a member of the Madrigal Society, of which he afterwards became honorary secretary, and, for the use of its members, he adapted English words to a considerable number of Italian madrigals, in some cases writing original verses, in others by merely translating. In 1834 he took part in the chorus, as a bass vocalist, in the great Handel festival held in Westminster Abbey, and in the same year published, under the pseudonym ‘Solomon Sackbut,’ ‘Comments of a Chorus Singer at the Royal Musical Festival in Westminster' Abbey.' He also published in 1835 ‘A Brief Account of the Madrigal Society;’ in 1836, ‘A Short Account of Madrigals;’ in 1837 ‘La Musa Madrigalesca,' a volume containing the words of nearly four hundred ‘madrigals, ballets, and ronndelays. chiefly of the Elizabethan age, with remarks and annotations.’ In 1837 he composed the words and music of a madrigal, ‘Stay one Moment, gentle Sires,' which he produced as the work of an unknown seventeenth-century composer, Blasio Tomasi, and as such it was performed at the anniversary festival of the Madrigal Society. He wrote English versions of Beethoven‘s ‘Fidelio’ and the ‘Mount of Olives,’ and the words for numerous songs of Hatton and other composers. By desire of the directors of the Philharmonic Society he translated portions of Wagner’s opera ‘Lohengrin,’ which were performed by the society's orchestra and chorus, the composer conducting, at the Hanover Square Rooms in March 1855. He was engaged for some years in cataloguing the music in the British Museum, and he occasionally lectured in public on musical subjets. In 1871 he wus elected president of the Madrigal Society. He died unmarried, on 9 March 1873, in Great Marlborough Street, and in the following April his valuable collection of ancient music was sold by Messrs. Puttick & Simpson.

[Private knowledge.]

W. H. C.