|While making a tour of Italy with his father in 1770, Mozart stayed a few days in Florence, and there formed a warm friendship with Thomas Linley, an English boy of about his own age, who was studying under Nardini, the celebrated violinist, and played so finely as almost to surpass his teacher. The two boys met at the house of Signora Maddelena Morelli, who was famed as an improvisatrice under the name of Corilla, and had been crowned as a poetess on the Capitol in 1776, and when they parted, Tommasino, as Linley was called in Italy, gave the young Mozart, for a souvenir, a poem which Corilla had written for him. Linley was unfortunately drowned a few years after his return to England, but not before he had given proof of the possession of talent as composer as well as musician.
His father, Thomas Linley the elder, was born at Wells in 1732, and was by trade a carpenter. But being one day at work at Badminton, the seat of the Duke of Beaufort, he heard Thomas Chilcot, the organist of Bath Abbey Church, play and sing, and, feeling that he had now found his true vocation in life, determined to become a musician. At first he received instruction from Chilcot at Bath, and then proceeded to Italy and studied under Paradies. Upon his return to England, he set up in Bath as a singing-master, and he became a leader in his profession. With the aid of his children, he carried on a series of concerts at the Bath assembly rooms, paying special attention to the rendition of the works of Handel. Linley removed to London in 1775, and was manager with Doctor Arnold of the Drury Lane Oratorios. With his son Thomas, he composed the music for his son-in-law Sheridan's comic opera of "The Duenna," and his other works include the music for "The Camp," and other pieces by Tickell, another son-in-law, for a version of Allan Ramsay's "Gentle Shepherd," and for "Selima and Azor," and "Richard Coeur de Lion," two adaptions from Gretry. He wrote new accompaniments to the airs in the "Beggar's Opera," also various elegies, ballads, anthems, glees, and madrigals. Doctor Burney praised him as a masterly performer on the harpsichord, and his music, which is distinguished by admirable taste and simplicity of design, gained for him a high place among English composers. During his last years his health was undermined by money difficulties and grief at the loss of his children, - of whom he had twelve, only three surviving him, - especially Thomas. He died suddenly, in London in 1795, and was buried in Wells Cathedral, where a monument was erected to him and his two daughters.
Several of his children made their mark in music, especially his youngest son, William Linley. A younger daughter, Maria, a favourite at the Bath concerts, died at an early age from brain fever. After one severe paroxysm, she rose up in bed and began to sing the air, "I know that my Redeemer liveth," in as full and clear a tone as when in perfect health.
Mary, the second daughter, who was also an excellent vocalist, married Sheridan's friend, Richard Tickell, a wit, author, and man of pleasure, and, after her older sister's retirement, filled her place in concert and oratorio. The sisters were very fond of each other, and one of Gainsborough's finest paintings is that in the Dulwich gallery, which shows them together. In the same collection are the same artist's portraits of the father and the son Thomas.
Little Elizabeth Ann Linley, the composer's eldest daughter, used to stand at the Pump-room door, in Bath, with a basket, selling tickets, when only a girl of nine. She was very lovely, gentle, and good, and came to be known as the "Maid of Bath." After she sang before the king and queen at Buckingham House in 1773, George III. told her father that he never in his life heard so fine a voice as his daughter's, nor one so well instructed. Her beauty was praised in high terms by John Wilkes, Horace Walpole, and Miss Burney, and the Bishop of Meath styled her "the connecting link between woman and angel." Of course she had many admirers. The Duke of Clarence persecuted her with his attentions, and her parents wished her to marry Mr. Long, an old gentleman of considerable fortune. The latter, when Elizabeth told him she could not love him, had the magnanimity to take upon himself the burden of breaking the engagement, and settled 3,000 pounds on her as an indemnity for his supposed breach of covenant.
A certain rascally Captain Mathews, a married rake, and a so-called friend of her father, had the effrontery to follow her with his solicitations, from which she was rescued by the young Sheridan, who fell in love with Elizabeth and persuaded her to fly with him to France. There, at Calais, they went through a formal ceremony of marriage, separating immediately afterward, the lady entering a convent, and Sheridan returning to England. Here he fought two duels with Captain Mathews, in the second of which he was quite seriously wounded. Mr. Linley went to France and brought his daughter home, and finally, about a year from the time of the Calais episode, the young couple were married again, this time in full sight of the world.
The future author of "The Rivals" and "The School for Scandal," addressed to his Eliza, among other early productions, this pretty snatch of song:
"Dry be that tear, my gentlest love,
Be hush'd that struggling sigh;
Nor seasons, day, nor fate shall prove
More fix'd, more true than I.
Hush'd be that sigh, be dry that tear;
Cease boding doubt, cease anxious fear;
Dry be that tear.
"Ask'st thou how long my love will stay,
When all that's new is past?
How long, ah! Delia, can I say
How long my life will last?
Dry be that tear, be hush'd that sigh;
At least I'll love thee till I die.
Hush'd be that sigh.
"And does that thought affect thee too,
The thought of Sylvio's death,
That he who only breath'd for you
Must yield his faithful breath?
Hush'd be that sigh, be dry that tear,
Nor let us lose our heaven here.
Dry be that tear."
For some eighteen years the Sheridans lived together, - Elizabeth never sang in public again after her marriage, - and then their union was broken by death. The devoted wife to this brilliant, but selfish, unreliable, and extravagant genius died in 1792, of consumption.
"Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory,"
and surely during the years of life left to Richard Brinsley Sheridan, he must often have recalled the happy days when he listened in delight to the music of his loved one's voice.
Sir Joshua Reynolds painted her as St. Cecilia in a lovely picture which he sent to the Royal Academy exhibition in 1775, - the year of "The Rivals." It remained in the artist's possession till 1790, when Sheridan bought it for one hundred and fifty guineas. It is now owned by the Marquis of Lansdowne.