Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rodwell, George Herbert Buonaparte

RODWELL, GEORGE HERBERT BUONAPARTE (1800–1852), author, musical director and composer, the brother (not the son) of James Thomas Gooderham Rodwell, playwright and lessee of the Adelphi Theatre (d. 1825), was born in London, 15 Nov. 1800. A pupil of Vincent Novello [q. v.] and Sir Henry Rowley Bishop [q. v.], Rodwell was in 1828 professor of harmony and composition at the Royal Academy of Music. Upon the death of his brother James in 1825, Rodwell succeeded to the proprietorship of the Adelphi Theatre. He mainly occupied himself with directing the music at the theatre, and in composition for the stage. His opera, ‘The Flying Dutchman,’ was produced at the Adelphi in 1826, and ‘The Cornish Miners’ at the English Opera House in 1827. His marriage with Emma, the daughter of John Liston [q. v.], the comedian, improved his theatrical connection, though, according to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ the union proved ‘very unfortunate.’ In 1836 he was appointed director of music at Covent Garden Theatre, where a farce by him, ‘Teddy the Tiler,’ from the French, had been performed in 1830. The Covent Garden management sought popularity by anticipating the repertory of Drury Lane; and Rodwell, though friendly with Bunn, the Drury Lane manager, was somewhat unscrupulous in this regard. When Auber's opera, ‘The Bronze Horse,’ was announced at Drury Lane, he brought out at Covent Garden an opera on the same theme, with music by himself. In some cases Rodwell wrote the words as well as the music. His principal librettist was Fitzball; but Buckstone, James Kenney, and Richard Brinsley Peake also supplied him with romances, burlettas, operettas, and incidental songs for musical setting. He was fortunate to find exponents of his clever and tuneful ballads in artists like Mrs. Keeley, Mrs. Waylett, and Mary Anne Paton [q. v.] But his efforts to establish a national opera in England had no lasting result. For many years Rodwell resided at Brompton. He died, aged 52, at Upper Ebury Street, Pimlico, on 22 Jan. 1852, and was buried at Brompton cemetery.

Rodwell wrote some forty or fifty musical pieces for the stage, besides songs, works on musical theory, romances, farces, and novels. Among his publications were:

  1. ‘Songs of the Birds,’ 1827.
  2. ‘First Rudiments of Harmony,’ 1831.
  3. ‘Letter to the Musicians of Great Britain,’ 1833.
  4. ‘Memoirs of an Umbrella,’ a novel, 1846.

[Gent. Mag. 1852, i. 309; Grove's Dictionary, iii. 143; Baptie's Handbook; Musical Times, 1852, p. 337; Theatrical Observer, 1825–50, passim; Registers of Wills, P. C. C., St. Alban's, 4; Fitzball's Life, passim; Bunn's The Stage, ii. 9; Horne's edition of Croker's Walk … to Fulham, pp. 49, 76; Rodwell's Works.]

L. M. M.