1st Edition

Music, Books and Theatre in Eighteenth-Century Exton A Context for Handel's ‘Comus’

By Colin Timms Copyright 2024
    136 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book establishes the cultural background to the productions of Milton’s Comus that were staged in the 1740s by Baptist Noel, 4th Earl of Gainsborough, at Exton Hall, his country seat in the East Midlands of England.

    The author reveals that Handel’s visit in 1745 occurred in a richer and fuller context of cultural interests among the Noel family. Most of the music at Exton was selected from existing works by Handel, but the four movements of the finale were new, written by the composer specifically for the occasion. The study is based on receipted bills and other documents in an archival collection of Noel family papers that provide evidence of the Earl’s purchase of books and music and of the musical and theatrical activities undertaken on his Exton estate. The author discusses the Earl’s interests in music, books and theatre, indicating a belief in performance as a valuable and enjoyable experience and as a vehicle for the education of the young. In addition to creating a context for Comus, this book sheds light on cultural life in a mid-eighteenth-century English country house and how the Earl’s productions made a significant contribution to the cultural life of the East Midlands.

    The book will be of great value to cultural musicologists, historians and Handelians, as the documentation sheds a huge amount of light on a variety of cultural practices in eighteenth-century England.

    Introduction  1. The 4th Earl of Gainsborough  2. Evidence from the Archives  3. Gainsborough’s Legacy  Appendix I: Subscriptions and Dedications  Appendix II: Documents on Music, Books and Theatre


    Colin Timms is Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham, UK. He has published mainly on Steffani, Stradella and Handel, and edited music by all three composers. His edition of Comus (music by Handel and Arne) appeared in 2016, his study of its verbal and musical text in 2022.