STEELE (RICHARD) Autograph letter signed, to the librettist John Hughes, 1716
Lot 165
STEELE (RICHARD) Autograph letter signed, to the librettist John Hughes, 1716
Sold for £625 (US$ 1,050) inc. premium
Lot Details
Autograph letter signed, to the librettist John Hughes ("Dear Sir"), offering to promote his masque Apollo and Daphne in his periodical Town Talk: "A Paper called the Town Talk is particularly designed to be helpfull to the Stage. If you have not sent the mask which is to come out on Thursday to presse; If you please send me the Copy it shall be recommended to the Town, and published on Thursday night with that paper"; docketed at the head "Letter XXXIV" and in another hand with the note: "Apollo and Daphne, a Masque of Mr Hughes", one page, browned, inner margin irregular, tipped at the corner onto an album leaf, 8vo, St James's Street, 8 January 1716


  • STEELE PROMOTES A NEW MASQUE BY HUGHES AND PEPUSCH: the periodical Town Talk was a successor to Steele's previous ventures such as The Tatler and Spectator: 'Steele's next essay periodical, Town Talk. In a Letter to a Lady in the Country, first appeared early in December 1715 and consisted essentially of current theatrical criticism, which Steele had virtually invented in The Tatler' (Calhoun Winton, ODNB). John Hughes, his correspondent and author of the masque's libretto, was part of the Addison-Steele circle: 'Hughes's most original and important poetic contribution was his role in the campaign for dramatic and vocal music in English. Here Hughes's practical musical and poetic skills made him the most qualified librettist of his day' (Thomas N. McGeary, ODNB). The German-born composer John Christopher Pepusch, who wrote the music for the masque, had recently transferred to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, writing for them four pieces including Apollo and Daphne: "These works were generally well received and seem to have influenced Handel in his composition of Acis and Galatea (Graydon Beeks, ODNB).

    The masque was published in the second volume of Hughes's Poems on Several Occasions, 1735, edited by his brother-in-law William Duncombe (who also communicated our letter to the Biographica Britannica, 1757, p. 2706). A flavour is given by the setting of the opening: 'The First Scene is a River. Peneus, a River-God, appears on a Bed of Rushes, leaning on his Urn. He rises, and comes forward, his Head crown'd with Rushes and Flowers, a Reed in his Hand'; at which the River God sings: 'How long must Peneus chide in vain/ His Daughter's Coyness and Disdain?/ Thro' Tempe's pleasant Vales and Bow'rs/ As my full Urn its Current pours,/ In ev'ry Plain, from ev'ry Grove/ I head the sighs of slighted Love...".
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