Journal entry (1779)

Burney, Susan
James Gillray (1756–1815), "A little music - or - the delights of harmony". National portrait Gallery.


"After talking awhile of the Opera, & cutting up Mr Tessier very notably, we had Music – that is, Piozzi sung several songs, serious & comic like an Angel – I have not heard him to so much advantage this long time..."


From Journal Letter, Entry for 16 November 1779, London

Tuesday November 16th – I dined very comfortably Saturday in York Street, & read to my Aunts part of some of your Paquets, with which they were monstruously delighted – as was poor Edward – who could not bring himself to leave the Room hurried as he now is till I had done – I need not I think assure you I took care to avoid reading any thing I suspected you would in the slightest degree dislike that this audience should hear, in the same manner you used to do in reading my Paquets from Worcester.

On my return home I found Mr Kirwan here – however he did not stay tea – but early in the Evening Mr Barry called – & talked Morality & Philosophy with my Mother – but told her, when she made use of the latter word, He did not know he had been talking Philosophy – ‘But for my part‘, added he, ‘I think the name is all that alarms in Moral Philosophy – for I don’t find that I know more for the matter than Miss Burney – or Miss Charlotte – or any other Lady‘ – Intending I really believe to be very civil he makes these sort of speaches eternally, which most Foreigners would regard as ridiculously impolite – He loves a little too much to display his knowledge, fine sentiments, & fine language – but is nevertheless entertaining, & seems, tho’ evidently a proud Man, willing even to pay Court to our Family. –

Soon after him my Father came home, & in a few Minutes Piozzi – in high good humour. – After talking awhile of the Opera, & cutting up Mr Tessier very notably, we had Music – that is, Piozzi sung several songs, serious & comic like an Angel – I have not heard him to so much advantage this long time – He sung all my favourites – Infelici Dircea of Mislewecek – Non saro mai piu geloso, & Fortuna Maledetta of Anfossi – Recagli quel Acciaro, a charming song, full of dignity & feeling, composed by Bertoni for Guadagni, &c &c. Mr Barry, as he understands Italian, & as to all uncultivated hearers Vocal Music has ever more effect than Instrumental seemed much delighted, & our Evening passed very agribbly. – I suppose you have seen Tessier’s impudent puff in the Morning Post where he names 7 or 8 Composers for the Opera this Season, out of which number but one has been engaged by the Managers – He begins with Sacchini, who has nothing to do this year – then Bertoni, who alone is engaged – he adds Bach, who is at Paris, Païsiello, in Russia, & 3 or 4 more – but not Philidor – it seems as if that Scheme was given up, which I much rejoice in. – We shall have nobody new in the Serious Opera – nor, except a base singer who is not arrived, & Signor Tonioli a last Man, in the Comic. – All my dependence for pleasure is on Pacchierotti – tho’ indeed Piozzi I am likewise always glad to hear. –

Sunday Evening we had our Friends the Kirwans – Mr Devaynes came in ; & to induce Miss Kirwan to go to the Harpsichord, took her round the waist, & finding her tickleish tormented her to death, till at last I joined my forces to hers to free her from this facetious old Gentleman, & we had a kind of Battle – ‘Tis an impertinent troublesome old Fright – but were he not such as he is, the liberties he takes would be indeed still more insufferable. – Yesterday Evening Charlotte went to Miss Kirwans. Mr Barry was there & escorted her home – he stayed here late, tho’ he would eat no supper – All his complaint at the Kirwans he says is their breaking up always at 9 o’clock – so his acquaintance in our House happens very apropos for him to conclude his Evening. – as ours often seem to begin where Mr Kirwan’s end. – Mr Coussmaker caller here this Morning – & upon hearing you were at Brighthelmstone, said he had just seen a Young Lady who was come from thence – Miss Cumberland, & who said it was very agreable – however I found she had not mentioned you, as he was surprised to hear you were there. – He spoke of the Critic, & said he was sorry Mr Sheridan had been so severe – & that Parsons took off Mr C– astonishingly well – Could you ever have supposed that ? – I never thought of Parsons except as an old Buffoon – He said Mr Cumberland in revenge had already attacked the School for Scandal & other pieces of Sheridan in a Prologue he has written to Massinger’s revived play of the Duke of Milan, which is now performing at Covent Garden – ‘tis pity, said Mr C., ‘he is so ready to take this up, as it only serves to justify Mr Sheridan’s accusation of peevishness‘ – I said I thought he had better appear unconscious of the attack made on him – ‘Oh but‘, said Mr C. again, ‘No one can mistake the Character who knows Mr Cumberland – His Son found it out immediately. – He is in the Guards – I dined with him a few days ago, & he curs’d at Mr Sheridan pretty heartily.‘ – So Master Dickey can Curse as well as stare, & languish ! – When you come to town I believe we must go & see this Farce. –


Text taken from The Journals and Letters of Susan Burney: Music and Society in Late Eighteenth-Century England, ed. Philip Olleson (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), p. 84-87 (16 November 1779). Transcription by Noémie Vandenborre (UBO).