MUSIC IN LONDON AND J.C. BACH Autograph diary kept by Sir William Bretton, Privy Purse to the young
Lot 551
MUSIC IN LONDON AND J.C. BACH Autograph diary kept by Sir William Bretton, Privy Purse to the young George III and fervent amateur musician
Sold for £2,151 (US$ 2,735) inc. premium

Lot Details
Autograph diary kept by Sir William Bretton, Privy Purse to the young George III and fervent amateur musician, the diary beginning at Bath on 27 December 1761 ("Consulted Doctor Moisey made visits went to the Duke of Yorks Levy dined at Coll Elliots with Lord Masham [husband of Abigail] went Home at six play'd upon the Harpsicord...") and, from 28 February 1762, while attending the Court in London, sample entries including: (1 March) "Visited Lord Bute and Lord Melcomb went to the Kings dressing waited upon the Princess of Wales dined att Lord Melcumbs visited Ly Middx"; (12 March) "saw Mr Pelenins tune my Harpsicord"; (17 March) "Went at one with Lord Melcombe to dine at La Trappe came to Town with Mr Adam Architect"; (31 March) "Hindred Riding by Rain at one went to dress the King dined att Lord Masshams, went at six with the King to the Messiah at Covent Garden"; (1 May) "Sorted Papers at one Rid to Turnham Green - dined at La Trappe with Messrs [Paul] Whitehead and [Dr] Thompson Supt & Lay there"; (2 July) "Writt my letter fair to Lord B. went to dress the King at one dined at Home & Play'd four Overtures with Mr Weiderman [Conductor of the King's Band of Musicians] walked with Him in the Park came Home musick'd alone"; (8 July) "went at one to dress the King - to the Drawing Room - saw the Cherokees presented - Musickd"; (9 August) "Rid to Town - Rid Lord Butes Horse. Musick'd dined at Home walk'd with Sr Sidney Meadows saw may Fair a fire Musick'd"; (20 August) "Musick'd early Rid Lord Butes Horse Fluted att Lady Howes with Mr Dubourge - Playd six Overtures with the Dukes Mr Wyndham & Mr Weideman who dined with me, walked with them in the Park Red"; (30 September) "Writt letters Rid Lord Butes Horse went to the Kings dressing to the Drawing Room dined att Sr Francis Dashwoods en Famille went with Him to the Conscious Lovers in Convent Garden"; (14 October) "Rid Lord Butes Horse an Hour with Mr Buissiere in Hide Park dressed the King went to the drawing Room dined with Mr Cresset - went in Twenty minutes with the King to the Mistake in Drury Lane Garrick Play'd Don Carlos Leanora Pritchard"; (15 December); at the end is an analysis of the year, together with a list of Handel oratorios heard in the 1763, a list of times that his harpsichord was tuned and, on the last page, a survey of his progress as a musician ("...Begun Ptolemy July 23rd/Learnt Ptolemy Overture in July from 23d & August in three Weeks --/Learnt Pastor Fido in a week --/Begun to Study the Harpsicord June 29th/Learnt Tamerlane in a fortnight begun august 22d --/Learnt Alexander in a fortnight begun Septr 5th/October 22d spoak to Lord Bute/Learnt twelve Overtures in one Year..."), c.120 pages, nineteenth-century note identifying the author, original marbled boards, autograph label on upper cover "Journal January 1762", spine partly lacking, small 4to


  • An unusually vivid description of musical life in London in the year that Johann Christian Bach - the 'London Bach' - settled there (and where he was to pass the remaining twenty years of his life); he, presumably, being the subject of an entry made on 15 December: "Settled my Box - went to Lord Butes Levy - visited Lady Bute & ca dined att Coll: Elliots went to Mrs Chetwyns concert Heard Baques Play". Bretton was Privy Purse to the King and intimate of his first minister Lord Bute (whose horse he frequently rode in the park), as well as of George Bubb 'SillyBub' Doddington, Lord Melcombe. Many entries record visits to Melcombe's magnificent Hammersmith villa of La Trappe, where Bretton would play at "Baggummon". Richard Cumberland (who also appears in the diary) has left a record of Melcombe's circle in his memoirs: "In the adjoining parish lived Mr Dodington, at a splendid villa, which by a rule of contraries he was pleased to call La Trappe, and his intimates and familiars the Monks of the Convent; they were Mr Wyndham, his relation, whom he made his heir; Sir William Breton, Privy-Purse to the King and Mr Thomson, a physician out of practice. These gentlemen formed a very curious society of very opposite characters; in short, it was a trio, consisting of a misanthrope, a courtier, and a 'quack'".
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