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Henry Purcell's 'Spaniards' and the dating of Dido and Aeneas

Authors:
  • Sydney Australia

Abstract

There have been almost twenty years of relative quiet in the field of speculation as to the exact date and context of Nahum Tate and Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas. As the 300 th anniversary of Purcell's death approached in 1995, there were a plethora of articles on this surprisingly divisive issue, and at times these arguments have been quite vitriolic. 1 The debate is, of course, older than that, 2 and yet still the issue is not decided. In the apparent safety of 2016 it may therefore be permissible for a new consideration of the context to enter the fray. We know of only one seventeenth-century performance of Dido and Aeneas: at Josias Priest's School for Young Gentlewomen, given at some time before December 1689. We do not know if this was the first performance although many have argued that it was. Arguments that the opera was presented at (or intended for) a royal or court performance first have come more recently although there is no evidence for when or why it could have been presented other than allegorical readings of the text of the opera. The exact date and context of composition are therefore matters for debate other than the only vaguely helpful terminus post quem that the opera was probably a response to John Blow's Venus and Adonis (c. 1683), the first opera in English. No original manuscript of Dido and Aeneas has yet been discovered and we only know Purcell's work through three copies, known as Tenbury, Ohki and Tatton Park. The only 17 th century source is a copy of the libretto and the music to the Prologue is lost. Various arguments for the date of composition and/or first performance have been proffered, and those which do not accept the Josias Priest, late 1689, date usually argue for an allegorical context in which the opera may have been composed and received. Arguments about Purcell's musical style are also brought to bear although these have been used to support a variety of dates. It is worth noting that a continuity of style or an uninterrupted development of style is not necessarily the course a composer's
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Henry Purcell’s ‘Spaniards and the dating of Dido and Aeneas
There have been almost twenty years of relative quiet in the field of speculation as to the exact
date and context of Nahum Tate and Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas. As the 300th
anniversary of Purcell’s death approached in 1995, there were a plethora of articles on this
surprisingly divisive issue, and at times these arguments have been quite vitriolic.
1
The debate is,
of course, older than that,
2
and yet still the issue is not decided. In the apparent safety of 2016 it
may therefore be permissible for a new consideration of the context to enter the fray.
We know of only one seventeenth-century performance of Dido and Aeneas: at Josias Priest’s
School for Young Gentlewomen, given at some time before December 1689. We do not know if
this was the first performance although many have argued that it was. Arguments that the opera
was presented at (or intended for) a royal or court performance first have come more recently
although there is no evidence for when or why it could have been presented other than
allegorical readings of the text of the opera. The exact date and context of composition are
therefore matters for debate other than the only vaguely helpful terminus post quem that the opera
was probably a response to John Blow’s Venus and Adonis (c. 1683), the first opera in English. No
original manuscript of Dido and Aeneas has yet been discovered and we only know Purcell’s work
through three copies, known as Tenbury, Ohki and Tatton Park. The only 17th century source is a
copy of the libretto and the music to the Prologue is lost. Various arguments for the date of
composition and/or first performance have been proffered, and those which do not accept the
Josias Priest, late 1689, date usually argue for an allegorical context in which the opera may have
been composed and received. Arguments about Purcell’s musical style are also brought to bear
although these have been used to support a variety of dates. It is worth noting that a continuity
of style or an uninterrupted development of style is not necessarily the course a composer’s
2
career takes. Depending on patron, commission, context or any number of other factors, a work
which was composed at a later date might seem to us simpler or less developed, but such
features may have been required, requested or desired of the work. For Purcell, a regression in
musical style could quite easily have taken place in a work for a new context, even when that
work is through-composed, the unusual feature of Dido and Aeneas when compared to his other
works.
The dating of the opera is a complex issue and has a long pedigree. Early notices thought the
work dated from Purcell’s youthful period: in 1776 Sir John Hawkins thought it was written in
1877 when Purcell was 19. An enigmatically authored article in Notes & Queries in 1877 by one
‘JCJ’ argued for dating it even earlier, to when Purcell was 17 in 1675. The first edition of Grove
in 1883 also supported this date. The Dictionary of National Biography of 1889 considered that Dido
and Aeneas was ‘conclusively proved’ to date from 1680. The same date was attested in the 1902
Oxford History of Music. In 1910 William H. Cummings observed that the work belonged to the
‘youthful’ period of Purcell’s work, around 1677, but that it was performed again later at Josias
Priest’s school. Cummings also recognised that the Epilogue was later, and suggested a revision
in 1688.
In 1917 the first shots were fired in this particular dating war when Alan Gray mused that the
idea that the work was a youthful one was a ‘fable’ and instead dated the work to 1689, but,
based on the line ‘we are protestants and English nuns’ it had to date to after the Glorious
Revolution of November 1688. In 1918 Barclay Squire observed that the arguments that it
belonged to Purcell’s youth rested on ‘no good evidence’ and instead selected 1683-1690 as more
likely and that the references to ‘protestant nuns’ and ‘turning times’ in the epilogue point to it
having been written shortly after the 1688 revolution. Barclay Squire, however, was unwilling to
3
abandon a composition date of 1680 with the epilogue added for a later revival. Barclay Squire’s
arguments held sway for a long time thereafter. Gratton Flood, also in 1918, supported a
composition date of 1689 placing it in December.
Jumping to 1967 we find John Buttrey arguing again for 1689 but specifically around April 30,
Queen Mary’s birthday. Buttrey considered that the opera had a royal performance context just
as the other operas performed in London prior to Dido and Aeneas had had. He considered that
the events of the opera allegorically referred to the events of the reign of William and Mary after
February 1689. Only then could a line like ‘Rome may allow strange tricks’ be allowed to refer to
the supposedly fraudulent birth of a son to James II in June 1688, considered by some at the
time a Popish plot to return England to Catholicism. Other allegorical readings of Dido and
Aeneas representing William and Mary suggested themselves such as the ‘new rising star of the
ocean’ referring to William’s crossing of the ocean and ‘new divinity’ referring to the equal
division of the monarchy.
In 1979 Margaret Laurie placed the opera at the time of William and Mary’s coronation on 21
April 1689 and in 1987 Ellen T. Harris favoured Laurie’s dating. It was after Harris’ book,
however, that the Dido and Aeneas dating war really hotted up.
Before that escalation, however, Richard Luckett
3
pointed out that in 1684 Josias Priest had also
previously performed Blow’s Venus and Adonis at his school, an opera which had first received a
royal performance in front of Charles II. This reinforced Cummings’ idea of an initial royal
performance of Dido and Aeneas followed some time later by one at Priest’s school. This
argument seemed to have vital implications for Purcell’s opera.
4
In 1992 Bruce Wood and Andrew Pinnock issued a ‘sweeping’ challenge to the orthodoxy of
accepted arguments, attacking the ‘sand’ of the consensus on which the dating of Dido and Aeneas
was built. They argued that the opera did receive a professional performance but that the musical
style of the work dated it to the mid-1680s and that the allegories in the prologue referred to the
meteorology of 1683/4. Buttrey was the first to respond, rankled that ‘if the opera was conceived
in c.1684, what event was it intended to celebrate?’ He could suggest none and so instead
reasserted that the work was first performed at Priest’s school. In 1994 Curtis Price argued that
for each of the arguments about Purcell’s musical style dating to the mid-1680s examples could
be found for the period of the 1690s. At the same time, he argued that ‘no allegorical
interpretation should ever take precedence over other, more solid kinds of evidence in
determining the date of composition.’ He considered that the opera itself was not political, but
its prologue another matter entirely. Curtis Price concluded, somewhat unhelpfully, that ‘all that
can be said with any certainty is that the first known performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas
took place at Priest’s boarding school in Chelsea sometime before 1689.’ Andrew Walkling
replied to Wood and Pinnock in 1994 by calling their revision of the dating ‘unconvincing’ and
that, while a challenge to the allegorical reading of William and Mary was welcome, theirs was
wrong. Instead he argued that the work referred to the Declaration of Indulgence by James II in
1687 or 1688 but accepted that his reading might not be definitive. At the same time, Walkling
considered it most likely that the work was composed in the last month of the reign of James II.
Wood and Pinnock leaped to their own defence and argued that Walkling had substituted one set
of conjectures for another. Elsewhere in 1995 Walkling re-iterated his arguments more strongly
but still conceded that nothing definitive had been arrived at.
As the 300th anniversary of Purcell’s death passed, the dating debate seemed to die down, and
works written subsequently have sided with Wood and Pinnock or Walkling or, more often, they
5
have returned to the apparent certainty of 1689. In 2009, however, Bryan White published a
letter of Rowland Sherman,
4
sent from Aleppo in February 1689 which referred to a mask made
for ‘Preists Ball’ by ‘Harry with a symph[ony] ‘I think in C flat’. This is the key of the overture to
Dido and Aeneas and so it seems that the opera was the work being referred to. A personal
relationship between Sherman and Purcell is suggested by the informal ‘Harry’ and other letters
of Sherman show he and the composer had significant contact. This letter would place a
performance of the opera at Priests school in July 1688 the trip to Alleppo taking considerable
time. Sherman’s letter certainly seems to imply that the work was written for Priest’s school – no
reference of it having been ‘for the court’ or ‘for the king’ and, White argues, it may have been
written for the court but did not reach the stage. In this regard the wording of Priest’s playbill for
the 1684 performance of Venus and Adonis is telling: ‘An opera perform’d before the King.
Afterwards at Mr. Josias Priest’s Boarding School at Chelsea. By Young Gentlewomen.’ When
compared to that of Dido and Aeneas: ‘An opera perform’d at Mr. Josias Priest’s Boarding School
at Chelsea. By Young Gentlewomen’, the notice certainly suggests that Dido and Aeneas did not
achieve a royal performance. Priest would presumably have advertised that fact, as he had in
1684. That said, it might not have been politic of him to advertise an opera performed ‘before
the King’ under the new monarchs in 1689.
In one sense therefore, arguments for a variety of dates regarding Dido and Aeneas are nothing
new. Most of the debate, however, centres on favouring one set of allegorical conjectures over
another for whatever reason or adhering to the fact of the Chelsea performance and as much or
as little else as the author chooses. One question, no doubt, which all the contributors to the
dating debate have asked is: ‘is there anything more?’ This is a question which this paper also
poses and it is one I believe I can answer with a definitive yes. Thus armed with a history of the
‘dating war’ we can proceed to a new suggestion for the date and (especially) context for the
6
opera and the reasons for my sustained military metaphor in regard to such arguments will
become apparent.
A possibility for the context of the composition of Dido and Aeneas which seems to have been
overlooked, and one which is supported by the direct evidence of our earliest source for the
opera as well as various other factors, is that it was a centenary commemoration of the defeat of
the Spanish Armada in July/August 1588.
5
The centenary of such a watershed moment in
English history is certainly a plausible context for the composition of Purcell’s opera whether it
was intended for a royal performance or not. This context has the added weight of fitting within
the new chronological parameters set by Bryan White’s discovery of Rowland Sherman’s letter
from Aleppo. A performance date of (late) July 1688 allows for Sherman to have seen it and then
departed for Aleppo. If the dating of the performance based on the letter can be pushed out by a
few weeks to August 1688 (and assuming the subsequent journey to Aleppo ‘made good time’)
then the entire period of the anniversary of the defeat of the Armada falls within the period
when the work Sherman refers to could have been performed.
In Act 3 scene i of Dido and Aeneas there is a dance to celebrate the success of the Sorceress’
plans against Dido and her Trojan prince. This dance, the Jack o’Lantern, has a most perplexing
stage instruction:
‘Jack of the Lanthorn leads the Spaniards out of their way among the Inchantresses’
This seemingly unfathomable instruction from Nahum Tate’s libretto has lead to much
speculation ‘Spaniards’ could be an anachronism and a printer’s error for ‘sailors’.
6
Others
argue that it refers to trade between Carthage and Spain.
7
By 1700 this reference had been
omitted and altered to just a dance of wizards and witches the music of the dance itself may or
7
may not have changed. As it stands, however, this instruction may offer clear evidence as to the
date of composition and the intended context of Dido and Aeneas as a whole.
A commemoration of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in Dido and Aeneas may be considered as
broadly allegorical, celebrating the defeat in general, or it may be possible to consider a more
literal allegory; that the dance especially celebrated, and possibly amplified, an actual moment
during the events of the defeat. There are several such moments during the defeat of the Armada
which can be related to the idea of the stage instructions for the dance, also known as the Jack
o’Lantern. There are also moments when the lanthorns hung on the English ships played a role in
the battle itself. What is more, immediately preceding the dance, the Witches’ chorus ‘See the
flags and streamers curling’, looks forward to the destruction of Aeneas’ fleet in a storm. This
might be considered to mirror the fate of much of the Armada in 1588 in storms on their
journey back to Spain after the defeat. The allegory of a storm sent to destroy Aeneas’ Roman
fleet commemorating the defeat of the Roman Catholic Armada seems clear in this context.
The idea of a lanthorn or lantern leading Spaniards ‘out of their way’ can be related to the use of
English fire ships on the night of July 28/29th (Julian Calendar August 7/8th)
8
1588, when the
Spanish fleet were anchored off Calais. At the approach of the fire ships, the majority of the
Spanish fleet panicked and cut their lines (thus leaving them without anchors) and were thus ‘led
out of their way’. In the confusion which followed, several Spanish ships collided and the fleet
was borne out to sea. This sealed the Armada’s fate as a large number of Spanish ships could no
longer lay anchor and, what is more, Calais was the last deep-water port where the Spanish could
hope to embark the Duke of Parma’s invasion force. By being dislodged in such a manner, the
Armada’s only choices were to run or fight. The wind direction continued to blow west-south-
west and the Spanish could not sail back through the Channel and thus were forced to sail home
8
via the North Sea. Sir Francis Drake’s squadron then pursued them up the East coast of
England.
Drake’s conduct earlier in the running engagement with the Spanish fleet, during the English
fleet’s shadowing of the Armada eastwards through the English Channel, also explicitly involved
a lanthorn. On the night of July 21st (July 31st) Drake’s ship Revenge led the chase of the Spanish
fleet toward the Isle of Wight. Drake lit his great poop lanthorn to guide the rest of the fleet.
During the night, however, he extinguished his lanthorn and captured one of the Spanish ships.
This actually led to confusion within the English fleet and so might not be considered an event
worthy of commemoration. Nonetheless, the accounts of the campaign are full of the imagery of
the confusion of the Spanish following the English fleets’ actions. During the continuing pursuit
on July 26th (August 5th) the English Admiral, Lord Howard of Effingham, recalled that ‘the
Spaniards went away before the English army like sheep.’
If the idea of the Jack o’Lantern dance in Dido and Aeneas as being a commemoration of the defeat
of the Spanish Armada one hundred years earlier is plausible then several other identifications
and allegories become possible. It should not be considered too much of a stretch to take the
Armada, and therefore Elizabethan, context of the dance itself and apply it to the opera as a
whole individual lines from the work have been used in such a way since the Dido and Aeneas
dating debate began. In this case, however, the picture which emerges by exploring an
Elizabethan reading of the opera, is compelling. The idea of the opera as a commemoration of
the defeat of the Spanish Armada fits, not only a date of July/August 1688, but also the wider
allegories of Elizabeth I and Elizabethan England in regard to Catholic Europe which were
never far from 17th century English minds.
9
Of course, any member of the House of Lords
would have been constantly reminded of the Spanish Armada since the ten Armada Tapestries
9
commissioned by Lord Howard of Effingham hung in the House of Lords Chamber from the
1650s (until 1801). We know from later politics that the tapestries were mentioned in debate and
used for propaganda but they must have meant that the defeat and what it represented were
never far from the minds of all who saw them.
Andrew Walkling pointed to the ‘extensive use of nautical imagery’ in the Prologue as referring
to James II’s role as High Admiral. This could just as easily relate to the natural themes of a work
referring to the defeat of the Armada and the actions of the English ships. Likewise, several of
the sentences which have been interpreted as relating to other allegorical interpretations also
make sense in an ‘Armada’ context. The idea of a ‘new divinity’ or a ‘new rising star of the ocean’
could easily be read as England’s burgeoning power at sea after the defeat of the Armada, or
indeed, if the opera was performed in July 1688, these same lines could relate to the birth of a
son to James II in June that year, whether the birth was fraudulent or not.
Most important in regard to a wider Elizabethan interpretation of Dido and Aeneas is the
association of Dido with Queen Elizabeth. Such an association was, in fact, a common one and,
if such imagery was accessed by Tate and Purcell, it opens up a whole series of further allegorical
readings within the opera. The earliest expression of the association between Dido and Elizabeth
would seem to be the 1564 play Dido by Edward Haliwell although its text is lost.
10
Edmund
Spenser’s Dido from the lament and also the Elissa of the April Eclogue have been identified as
representing Elizabeth.
11
Both were written in 1579 (April and November respectively) and the
lament would seem to relate to Elizabeth’s announced intention of marrying the Duke of
Alençon in that year. The same context has been argued for Marlowe’s Tragedy of Dido, Queen of
Carthage, which also explicitly identifies Dido with Elizabeth.
12
Others argue that Marlowe’s play
should be dated to the period of the Armada (but dating arguments suggest anything from 1579
10
through to the 1590s and, although the title page gives us the date 1594, many doubt this was the
first performance). Another, explicit, linking of Elizabeth and Dido in the context of the Armada
is James Aske’s 1588 poem Elizabeth Triumphans.
13
William Gager’s 1583 play Dido also explicitly
parallels the two queens:
‘Dido, one woman surpasses you by far: our virgin Queen. In her piety, how many
reversals has she endured! What kingdoms has she founded! To what foreigners has she
plighted her trust!’
Gager also pleads ‘may no Aeneas sway her affections’. Spenser again used positive Dido avatars
of Elizabeth in The Faerie Queene. Clifford Weber argues that the three virginal figures associated
with Dido, Diana, the Amazon queen Penthesilea, and Venus, are also associated with
Elizabeth.
14
Thus when any of them is used, the image of Dido is also conjured. In which case
the Greek and Latin poem Triumhalia by one ‘Eleutherius’ published in 1589 and which
celebrated Elizabeth’s victory over the Armada and which associated her with Penthesilea, also
associated her with Dido. Within the context of Dido and Aeneas therefore, the Diana imagery
also conjures, not only Dido but also by extension, Elizabeth.
Comparisons between Elizabeth and Dido were not always favourable and, especially in the
context of the French marriage tended to stress ‘the self-destructive desires which led to Dido’s
fall.’
15
Arguments as to which works or parts thereof are favourable or otherwise do themselves
vary.
16
Associations between Elizabeth and Dido were also made in more official contexts. In two
Elizabeth portraits the story of Dido appears on pillars contained within them. In the ‘Siena
Sieve Portrait’ of Quentin Massys the Dido story is shown in nine gold inlays on a pillar behind
11
the queen although the inclusion of the Dido story has been interpreted as revealing Elizabeth’s
vulnerability to foreign suitors
17
and the work may have been painted for the Earl of Leicster.
Associations between Dido and Elizabeth continued after the queen’s death
18
and it might be
considered that Dido continued to immediately evoke Elizabeth in the late 17th century as well.
The analogy between Dido and Elizabeth was a natural one, not only because she was a
prominent queen but also through both figures’ relationship with Rome. Dido’s empire rivalled
Rome’s and Elizabeth’s empire was also a dangerous rival to those of Catholic Spain and France
and therefore, by association, Rome’s’. What is more, the association was made both by
supporters of Elizabeth who sought to emphasize her foundation of a new empire which would
rival Rome and Carthage, and her detractors who used the image to stress her vulnerability to
foreign, and Roman suitors. The idea of Dido as Elizabeth and, by extension, Elizabeth as
England are attractive since both the positive and negative aspects of the Dido imagery could be
used and understood. The fears in England under James II in 1688 in regard to Catholicism can
also be seen to fit both sides of a reading of the Dido/Elizabeth association especially regarding
the English empire; by 1688 a much more valid rival to ‘Rome’s’ than she had been a hundred
years earlier. The ideas of warning against ties with Rome allegorically in 1688, and within a
performance commemorating Elizabeth’s greatest defiance and defeat of the forces of Rome,
also fit the historical context surrounding Purcell’s opera. Such allegories might also suggest why
the opera may have been a ‘hot potato’ and not actually performed before the court even if that
was its intended audience. Perhaps it was banned or abandoned as unwise and performed at
Priest’s school instead.
19
If we accept the idea of the opera as a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the defeat of
the Spanish Armada, then the ostensible purpose of the work was to celebrate a seminal event in
12
English history. The other allegorical associations which might have been considered dangerous
in a royal performance context might also be more safely made since they could be easily denied
and the emphasis be placed instead on Elizabeth’s and England’s glorious military past rather
than fears of resurgent Catholicism in England or relations with Roman Catholic Europe.
The cult of the centenary seems to have become prominent only in the late 18th century but
anniversaries of particular events were certainly celebrated prior to that date. John Buttrey argued
that the anniversary of Elizabeth’s accession was one: ‘for the next two centuries, the anniversary
of Elizabeth I’s accession was venerated because it represented the return to Protestantism’.
20
Centenaries had been celebrated prior to the 17th century and there are later examples in English
history the 1688 revolution centenary itself was celebrated in 1788. There were also attempts to
celebrate a Shakespearean bicentenary in the 1760s and there was a Handel centenary in 1785.
Although very little direct evidence exists, the same could be suggested for the dates of the
Armada, and if not an anniversary celebrated every year, then the 100th anniversary and the
events and uncertainties of 1688 could certainly have brought the decisive events of one hundred
years before to mind. The Armada is certainly still in the mind of John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys
who refer to it in their correspondence in the 1680s.
21
None of these mentions are in reference
to a specific anniversary however.
Since we do not know where, for what purpose or in what form Dido and Aeneas was originally
performed, we cannot know how the works messages (or perceived messages) were received. If
the work was intended for a royal context (which is possible and was the occasion of Blow’s
Venus and Adonis) it might be considered dangerous for Purcell to have attempted anything (even
allegorically) which could have been considered anti-Catholic or pro-Dutch and which would
have found no favour with James II. Certainly the events of 1688 might suggest why perceived
13
allegories in Dido and Aeneas would be unwelcome; the naval accord with the French in April and
agitation against James which was already active by June 1688. It is possible William had
intentions to ‘intervene forcibly in English affairs’ as early as December 1687 and certainly after
the April accord with France. The letter of the Immortal Seven reached him at the end of June
1688. How aware Purcell or his librettist were of such events is difficult to say although drawing
too much attention to them might have proved dangerous. Performing an opera on Dido with
its obvious Elizabethan connotations might still have been regarded as ‘stirring the pot’ despite
its patriotic overtones.
White’s arguments support a return to the idea that the opera was first performed at Priest’s
school. Perhaps it was written for court but not performed; were the associations of the Armada
unwelcome at court in the context of July 1688 and the lead up to the Glorious Revolution?
Nonetheless, under James II an opera which involved a commemoration and celebration of the
defeat of the Spanish Armada is entirely possible. A non-royal performance context could
remove all such problems of the combined allegories argued above and a non-royal performance
could also commemorate and celebrate the defeat of the Armada.
Reading the opera as a commemoration of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Dido becomes
easily, even naturally, identifiable with Elizabeth. What is more, a commemoration of the
Armada in July 1688 would make the association of Dido with Elizabeth the most natural
association to make.
In the context of the 17th century, the Dido/Elizabeth identification can also be seen more
broadly as representative of England, and most especially Protestant England. In the context of
the Armada the opera also becomes a commemoration and celebration of Protestant England’s
14
greatest victory over the forces of Catholic Europe. Reading Purcell’s opera in this
Dido=Elizabeth, Elizabeth=(Protestant) England way, the whole story of Dido and Aeneas
becomes a broadly allegorical cautionary tale whereby England is warned to avoid the charms
and embrace of ‘Aeneas’ who represents Roman Catholic Europe. This analogy certainly avoids
the problems which plague reading Dido as Mary and Aeneas as William, and even reading Dido
as James II and Aeneas as Roman Catholic Europe. Warning England’s new king to not let the
queen down or warning a Catholic monarch to avoid the temptations of Catholicism, or Catholic
Europe really do not hold up to any kind of scrutiny. The Armada and therefore
Elizabeth/England reading of Dido and Aeneas avoids these issues.
1
B. Wood and A. Pinnock ‘‘Unscarr’d by turning times’? The dating of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Early Music 20
(1992), pp. 373-390; M. Goldie ‘The earliest notice of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas’, Early Music 20 (1992), pp. 393-400;
J. Buttrey ‘The dating of Dido’, Early Music 20 (1992), p. 703; M. Adams ‘More on dating Dido’, Early Music 21
(1993), p. 510; C. Price ‘Dido and Aeneas: questions of style and evidence’, Early Music 22 (February, 1994), pp. 115-
125; B. Wood and A. Pinnock ‘‘Singin’ in the rain’: yet more on dating Dido’, Early Music 22 (May, 1994), pp. 365-
367; A. R. Walkling ‘The dating of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas? A Reply to Bruce Wood and Andrew Pinnock’, Early
Music 22 (August 1994), pp. 469-481; B. Wood and A. Pinnock ‘Not known at this address: more on the dating of
Dido’, Early Music 23 (1995), pp. 188-189; A. R. Walkling ‘Political Allegory in Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’’, Music &
Letters 76 (1995), pp. 540-571.
2
See J. Hawkins A General History of the Science and Practice of Music (London, 1776); J. C. J. ‘Purcell’s “Dido and
Æneas”’, Notes and Queries s5-VIII, Number 202, (1877), p. 365; W. H. Cummings ‘Dido and Æneas’, The Musical
Times 51 (1910), pp. 363-364; W. Barclay Squire ‘Purcell’s ‘Dido and Æneas’’, The Musical Times 59 (1918), pp. 252-
254; W. H. Gratton Flood ‘Purcell’s ‘Dido and Æneas’: Who was Lady Dorothy Burke?’, The Musical Times 59 (1918),
p. 515; J. Buttrey ‘Dating Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas’, Proceedings of the Royal Music Association 94 (1968), pp. 51-62; C.
Price and I. Cholij ‘Dido’s Bass Sorceress’, The Musical Times 127 (1986), pp. 615-618; E. T. Harris Henry Purcell’s Dido
15
and Aeneas (Oxford, 1987); M. Burden ‘Review of Harris’, The Musical Times 130 (1989), pp. 85-86; P. Holman
‘Review of Dido & Aeneas, full score, ed. Ellen T. Harris, vocal score, ed. Edward J. Dent, rev. by Ellen T. Harris
(Oxford, 1988, 1987)’, Music & Letters 71 (1990), pp. 617-620; D. Payne Fisk & J. Munns ‘“Clamorous with War and
Teeming with Empire”: Purcell and Tate’s Dido and Aeneas’, Eighteenth-Century Life 26 (2002), pp. 23-44; L. Swartz
‘Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Virgil’s Aeneid: Roman Mythology Seen Through an English Restoration Lens’, (1998)
at http://xenon.stanford.edu/~lswartz/dido_and_aeneas_aeneid.pdf.
3
R. Luckett ‘A new source for ‘Venus and Adonis’’, The Musical Times 130 (1989), pp. 76-79, at p. 76.
4
B. White ‘Letter from Aleppo: dating the Chelsea School performance of Dido and Aeneas, Early Music 37 (2009),
pp. 417-428. See A. R. Walkling ‘The Masque of Actaeon and the Antimasque of Mercury: Dance, Dramatic
Structre, and Tragic Exposition in Dido and Aeneas’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 63 (2010), pp. 191-
242. According to C. Price and A. R. Walkling, ‘To the editor of the Journal’, Journal of the American Musicological
Society 64 (2011), pp. 266-274, at p. 266, the ‘letter from Aleppo changes almost everything.’
5
On the Armada see G. Mattingly The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (London, 1959); C. Martin and G. Parker The
Spanish Armada (New York, 1988); F. Fernandez-Armesto The Spanish Armada: The Experience of War in 1588 (Oxford,
1988); P. Padfield Armada: A Celebration of the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 1588-1988
(Annapolis, 1988).
6
Purcell Dido and Æneas, eds. M. Laurie and T. Dart (Sevenoaks, 1966), p. 63, Spaniards is amended to ‘sailors’
without comment.
7
Harris Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, p. 56.
8
England did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until 1752 when Wednesday September 2nd was followed by
Thursday September 14th.
9
See Buttrey ‘Dating Purcell’s Dido’, pp. 52-54.
10
See D. Williams ‘Dido, queen of England’, English Literary History 73 (2006), pp. 31-59.
11
P. E. McLane ‘The Death of a Queen: Spenser’s Dido as Elizabeth’, The Huntington Library Quarterly 1 (1954), pp.
1-11; L. Staley Johnson ‘Elizabeth, Bride and Queen: A Study of Spenser’s April Eclogue and the Metaphors of
English Protestantism’, Spenser Studies, Volume 2 (New York, 1981), pp. 75-92, at p. 87.
12
See J. M. Caro-Barnes ‘Marlowe’s Tribute to His Queen in Dido, Queen of Carthage’, Early English Studies 1 (2008), at
http://www.uta.edu/english/ees/fulltext/caro-barnes1.html. In Act 4 Marlowe changes Elissa (the Phoenician
spelling of Dido) to Eliza. D. Stump ‘Marlowe’s Travesty of Virgil: Dido and Elizabethan Dreams of Empire’,
Comparative Drama 34 (2000), pp. 79-107, at p. 84.
16
13
Stump ‘Marlowe’s Travesty’, p. 80.
14
C. Weber ‘Intimations of Dido and Cleopatra in some Contemporary Portrayals of Elizabeth I’, Studies in Philology
96 (1999), pp. 127-143, at p. 128.
15
Stump ‘Marlowe’s Travesty’, p. 81.
16
See Caro-Barnes ‘Marlowe’s Tribute’.
17
Stump ‘Marlowe’s Travesty’, p. 81.
18
In 1986 P. van der Merwe, ‘The Shardeloes ‘Armada Portrait’’, The Bvrlington Magazine 138, Number 1118 (1996),
p. 329, observed that the ships were flying the Union flag and therefore dated till after 1603. He also pointed out
that the ships’ appearance dates the work to around 1660.
19
This may provide a further context for the disapproval of the performance at Priest’s school by Mrs. A. Buck (see
Goldie ‘The earliest notice’) although White ‘Letter from Aleppo’, p. 423, has raised the valid issue that this letter,
dating to May 30, 1691, may not relate to Dido and Aeneas at all.
20
Buttrey ‘Dating Purcell’s Dido’, p. 52. On 5 November 1689, Gilbert Burnet’s sermon to the House of Lords
used the convenient anniversary of both the 1605 Gunpowder Plot and William’s landing at Torbay in 1688 to draw
parallels between each as the rescue of Protestant England from Catholicism and tyranny. W. Gibson The Church of
England: Unity and Accord (London, 2001), p. 38.
21
See Particular Friends. The Correspondence of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, ed. G. de la Bédoyère (Woodbridge, 1997).
See for instance Pepys to Evelyn 25 June 1680 (pp. 100-101) and Evelyn to Pepys 7 July 1680 (pp. 103-116) where
specific mention is made of the fire ships and it is clear that these two men are intimately familiar with the events of
the Armada campaign.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Although Dido and Aeneas is the first English opera which most people remember today, it is wrong to think that it was the first operatic work to be seen in London. That honour belongs to a through-composed French work, Ariane, ou le Mariage de Bacchus. This opera was performed only once, and that was at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane on 30 March 1674. The music was the work of the French composer, Louis Grabu, who at that time was attached to the English court as Composer of the King's Musick. Then, about the same period, two English operas were seen at The Duke's Theatre in Dorset Garden. One was a version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and the other was Psyche by Thomas Shadwell, but both of these pieces included spoken dialogue and do not concern us here. But a decade later, in 1685, the through-composed opera by Dryden and Grabu, Albion and Albanius , was given six performances at The Duke's Theatre. So it was Ariane and this work that were the predecessors of Purcell's opera.