Claver Morris, an Early Eighteenth-Century English Physician and Amateur Musician Extraordinaire

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Northeastern University]On: 09 October 2014, At: 16:27Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Journal of the Royal MusicalAssociationPublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rrma20

    Claver Morris, an EarlyEighteenth-Century EnglishPhysician and Amateur MusicianExtraordinaireH. Diack JohnstonePublished online: 29 Jan 2009.

    To cite this article: H. Diack Johnstone (2008) Claver Morris, an Early Eighteenth-Century English Physician and Amateur Musician Extraordinaire , Journal of the RoyalMusical Association, 133:1, 93-127, DOI: 10.1093/jrma/fkm010

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  • Claver Morris, an Early Eighteenth-CenturyEnglish Physician and Amateur Musician

    Extraordinaire

    h. diack johnstone

    In memory of Stanley Sadie, who was first to explore the riches of provincial concert lifein eighteenth-century England, and did so much to dispel the pernicious notion of this as aDark Age in our musical history. He died on 21 March 2005 at his home in Cossington,near Bridgwater, on the western perimeter of the area in which Claver Morris practised.

    GIFTED amateurs have long been the salt of the musical earth, and nowhere moreso perhaps than in these isles. Only rarely, however, are their activities recorded.Except for the occasional letter or two, hard documentary evidence is almostentirely lacking. That is why, for the musicologist (and social historian too),the journals of John Marsh (17521828), sometime lawyer and keen amateurmusician, musical animateur and composer, are so very interesting and import-ant.1 But for the early years of the eighteenth century the only comparable thingwe have are the diaries and account books of Dr Claver Morris (16591727), anOxford-trained physician who spent almost the whole of his professional life inthe West Country city of Wells, where, for 20 years at least (and probably more),he was the leading light of the local musical society. That these are not entirelyunknown (and are indeed quite often cited by modern musical scholars) is duesolely to the fact that a heavily pruned volume of extracts was published in 1934.2

    Its editor, Dr Edmund Hobhouse, was a member of the family among whosepapers the diaries and accounts books had been found, and in whose keeping they

    1 The John Marsh Journals: The Life and Times of a Gentleman Composer (17521828), ed. BrianRobins (Stuyvesant, NY, 1998). See also my review in Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 125(2000), 30614. The amateur musical activities of another late eighteenth-century family, theSharps, as portrayed by Zoffany in his well-known painting of 1781, have been ably charted byBrian Crosby in his Private Concerts on Land and Water: The Musical Activities of the SharpFamily, c.1750c.1790, RMA Research Chronicle, 34 (2001), 1119.

    2 The Diary of a West Country Physician A.D. 16841726, ed. EdmundHobhouse (London, 1934; 2ndedn 1935). Hobhouse naturally concentrates almost entirely on the diaries, and prints only a verysmall selection of accounts. For fuller details of the latter, some grouped thematically in units eachconcerned with a single item of domestic expenditure (wine, clothing, horses, pictures, etc.),see Dr. Claver Morris Accounts, Notes and Queries for Somerset and Dorset, 22 (19368), 7881,1002, 14751, 1725, 199203 and 2302; 23 (193942), 401, 1003, 13440, 1646, 1825 and3457.

    Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 133 no. 1 93127

    The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Musical Association. All rights reserved.doi:10.1093/jrma/fkm010

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  • still remain.3 Four manuscript volumes were discovered, one of diaries coveringthe period from 25 June 1718 to 12 August 1726, and three of accounts (in one ofwhich there is also a diary for the year 170910).4 As the first of the account bookswas evidently taken over from the guardians of the wealthy young lady hemarriedin October 1685, some of its entries relate to the ten-year period before ClaverMorris appeared on the scene. The last runs out in November 1723. Given theirextremely detailed nature Morris meticulously records virtually every item ofincome and expenditure (including his losses at such games as tables, i.e. back-gammon) it is sad to report that, some time during the last 60 years, one volumeof accounts covering the period 16981708 has gone astray, and that all efforts tolocate it have so far failed.5

    Though Kenneth James clearly had recourse to the surviving originals when hewas preparing his London Ph.D. dissertation, Concert Life in Eighteenth-Century Bath (1987), it seems that the only other person, myself apart, to haveconsidered this material in any detail is Professor Paul Hyland of Bath SpaUniversity, to whom I am hugely indebted not only for his generous sharing ofresearch materials, but also for the many stimulating discussions we have hadabout matters of common concern. So far, much the fullest account of ClaverMorriss musical activities is that by Michael Tilmouth introduced en passant aspart of his fascinating article TheBeginnings of Provincial Concert Life.6 In sucha context, however, the author could obviously do little more than draw attentionto some of the more interesting aspects of musical life in early eighteenth-centuryWells and thus whet the appetite for some rather more detailed survey of the sort

    3 I ammuch obliged toNiallHobhouse, ofHadspenHouse,Castle Cary, Somerset, for his kindnessin allowingme to inspect the originalmanuscripts in the summer of 2004. For EdmundHobhouse(18881974), a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, see Munks Roll, vi: Lives of the Fellows ofthe Royal College of Physicians of London Continued to 1975, ed. Gordon Wolstenholme (Oxford,1982), 247.

    4 This section of the diary runs from 25March 1709 (Lady Day, then normally reckoned to be thebeginning of the year) until 24March 1710. Whether or not Morris went on in another book, orsimply (thoughmost improbably) abandoned the diary at that point, is not known. But, having inthat same years accounts declared that he can see no reason why the Christian Epoch shouldbegin at any time other than the Day of the Nativity, or Circumcision, all later diaries (andaccount books too) treat the year as starting on 1 January.

    5 Photocopies of the three remaining volumes are held by the Somerset RecordOffice (in Taunton),the diaries on microfilm and the account books on microfiche. The original manuscripts are allvery narrow, upright folio volumes bound in vellum; they measure between 6 and 6 inches inwidth and between 14 and 16 inches in height. The missing volume, we may suppose, wassimilar. The days of the week are indicated by the standard astrological signs and, from 1718onwards, the daily weather too is summarized by the diarist in pictograph form. Fortunately a listof the books (though not alas themusic) purchased between 1698 and 1708may be recovered fromEdmund Hobhouse, The Library of a Physician circa 1700, The Library: Transactions of theBibliographical Society, 13 (1932), 8996 (pp. 902); for a random selection of other things, seeDr. Claver Morris Accounts.

    6 Music in Eighteenth-Century England: Essays in Memory of Charles Cudworth, ed. ChristopherHogwood and Richard Luckett (Cambridge, 1983), 117 (esp. pp. 8 and 1214).

    94 H. DIACK JOHNSTONE

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  • which is attempted here. That there is a good deal more to the story than has yetbeen revealed will, I hope, become evident as we proceed.Quite when the local music society first got started is not entirely clear, but it

    seems to have beenmeeting regularly in Close-Hall (a building which still standsand is now known as the Vicars Hall) as early asMay 1709. It was almost certainlyfounded some years earlier still,most probably byMorris himself (as his purchase,in March 1696, of four desks for Close Hall might possibly suggest).7 Meetingswere regularly held on Tuesday evenings throughout the year, public holidays notexcluded, and from this it may perhaps be inferred that most members wereresidents of the close (or lived nearby) and were not dependent on the light ofthe moon to see them safely home afterwards. Though we have no idea how largea group they were, it is clear from the diaries that there were both performingmembers and members who came simply to listen;8 also that, among the latter,there were a surprisingly large number of women.9 Since members were charged6d. to introduce a guest, there must, almost certainly, have been some annualmembership fee, but what it was does not appear. Whenever he was in Wells,Claver Morris usually attended. Only rarely does he tell us what was actuallyperformed but when he does, it is nearly always something of considerableinterest (as we shall presently see). Sometimes, as at a meeting on 26 September1721, there was a great appearance of Company; and sometimes too, though onlyrarely, very few people turned up and, as on 9 July 1723, we had notHands enoughfor a Consort. Just occasionally there were distinguished visitors to be enter-tained, most memorably perhaps on 8 July 1718, when Lord Harley (the Earl ofOxford) and his lady were in attendance together with Mr Prior; the latter wemay safely assume to have been Matthew Prior (16641721), the poet and

    7 On 3 August 1708Morris paid 9s. for six brass candlesticks for the use of the musick club room attheDeanery, but it is not clear why the clubwas thenmeeting there rather than inCloseHall. Thisreference from themissing account book is in Dr. ClaverMorris Accounts,Notes and Queries forSomerset and Dorset, 23, 101. An obviously similar music club meeting in the college of the vicarschoral in Hereford was evidently already well established; see Elizabeth Chevill, Clergy, MusicSocieties and the Development of a Musical Tradition: A Study of Music Societies in Hereford,16901760, Concert Life in Eighteenth-Century Britain, ed. Susan Wollenberg and SimonMcVeigh (Aldershot, 2004), 3553. Also dating from the early 1690s was another (and probablyrather smaller) provincial music society based in Stamford; see Bryan White, A pretty knot ofMusical Friends: The Ferrar Brothers and a Stamford Music Club in the 1690s, Music in theBritish Provinces 16901914, ed. Rachel Cowgill and Peter Holman (Aldershot, 2007), 944.

    8 As appears from a diary entry for 4 June 1723, when they had a very good full Consort, but noAuditors.

    9 Though the performers were normallymen, as was usual in all such clubs, the ladies toomight veryoccasionally be heard (as on 6 December 1720, when Miss Catharine Layng [daughter of thearchdeacon of Wells] & a YoungWoman, who was a Limner [i.e. a portrait painter] in Hereford-shire who had an extraordinary fine Voice, & a very good manner, Sung). The young Ladies ofWells and Sheptonmentioned byHobhouse (The Diary of a West Country Physician, 39) as havingperformed on 6 August 1719 were actually young Ladds, and their music on that occasion was,says Morris, very mean; in his transcription of the diary itself, however, Hobhouse has it right(ibid., 71). When choral items were included, the treble parts would most probably have beentaken by two or three cathedral choristers.

    CLAVER MORRIS 95

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  • diplomatist who, withHarley, had been deeply involved in negotiating the Treatyof Utrecht, publicly celebrated just five years previously.The Musick-Clubb (as it is often referred to in the diaries) must obviously

    have been heavily dependent not only on the enterprise and enthusiasm of ClaverMorris himself, but also on the active participation and good will of the 12 vicarschoral, several of whom (like Morris) not only sang, but played a variety ofinstruments too. Bothmusical and social harmonywas rudely shattered, however,when, in June 1726, a long-running and increasingly acrimonious disputebetweenMorris and the vicars over access to the Close through a nearby propertywhich had been leased to him by the dean and chapter some years earlier came toa head. Egged on, it seems, by the bishop (George Hooper), the vicars took it allthe way to the High Court in Chancery and won.10 Thus the club was shortlyafterwards disbanded, and its funds (which had for years apparently been admin-istered by Morris) given to charity.11 Undaunted, Morris and some at least of hismusical friends carried on at the Mitre, but how long they survived we do notknow. The records break off shortly after that, and eight months later Morrishimself was dead.The son of a West Country clergyman, Claver Morris was born in Caundle

    Bishop in Dorset. Educated locally, we presume, he went up to New Inn Hall,Oxford, in March 1676 and proceeded thence at three-yearly intervals to thedegrees of BA, MA and BM, and subsequently (in 1691) to a doctorate in medi-cine.12 In 1683 he became an Extra Licentiate of the College of Physicians, bywhich stage it appears that he was practising in Salisbury, where he had a cousin(James Claver) who was an apothecary. On 13October 1685, he married a wealthyyoung London heiress, G...

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