|Share page||Visit Us On FB|
486 LUTES, VIOLS, VIRGINALS, ETC.
" Of viols," says Mace, " there are no better in the world than those of Aldred, Jay, and Smith, yet the highest in esteem are Bolles and Ross; one bass of Bolles I have known valued at 100/. These were old; but we have now very excellent good workmen, who no doubt can work as well as those, if they be so well paid for their work as they were; yet we chiefly value old instruments before new; for, by experience, they are found to be far the best."
A hundred pounds for a lute, and the same for a viol, were quite as large sums, in relation to the comparative value of money, as are now occasionally paid for Cremona violins of the best makers of the sixteenth century; but the expenditure upon music generally was certainly greater, in proportion to our wealth, in the seventeenth than in the present century. Evelyn tells us that when Sir Samuel Morland was blind, he " buried 200Z. worth of music-books six feet under ground; being, as he said, love-songs and vanity." This was a considerable sum for an amateur to spend in books of vocal music only ; and as he continued to play " psalms and religious hymns on the theorbo," it may be presumed that what was interred formed but a portion of his vocal library.
During the great fire of London in 1666, Pepys, who was an eye-witness, tells us that, the river Thames being full of lighters arid boats taking in goods, he " observed that hardly one lighter or boat in three, that had the goods of a house, but there was a pair of virginals in it." As these were principally for the use, of the fair sex, the cultivation of music could not have declined among them to any great extent, in spite of the long reign and depressing influence of puritanism; or else the revival must have been singularly rapid. The virginals, spinet, and harpsichord (or harpsichon, as it was about this time more generally called), were the precursors of the pianoforte; and, although differing from one another in shape, and somewhat in interior mechanism, were essentially the same instrument. Two "pairs of virginals," manufactured in London, are now in the possession of Mr. T. Mackinlay; the one pair by John Loosemore (the builder of the organ of Exeter Cathedral), bearing the date of 1655, and the second by Adam Leversidge, made in the year of the fire. In shape they resemble " square" pianofortes; but the lids, instead of being flat, are elevated in the centre, and are in three long pieces. The compass of the second is from A to F, —rather less than five octaves. The interiors of the lids are decorated by paintings.
To connect the history of the cultivation of music among ladies, from the reign of Elizabeth to that of Charles, it may suffice to quote from two authors; and, as Dr. Nott.truly says, "From old plays are chiefly to be collected the manners of private life in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries," the first shall be a dramatist. Middleton's play, A Chaste Maid, 1630, opens with this question, addressed by the goldsmith's wife to her daughter : " Moll, have you played over all your old lessons o'the virginals ?" In his Michaelmas Term, 1607, Quomodo, the hosier, desires his daughter to leave the shop, and to " get up to her vir- I ginals." In his Roaring Qirl, 1611, Sir Alexander asks Moll, "You can play