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Attwood, Thomas

ATTWOOD, THOMAS:

(1) - (1765-1838), English composer, the son of a coal merchant who had musical tastes, was born in London on the 23rd of November 1765. At the age of nine he became a chorister in the Chapel Royal, where he remained for five years. In 1783 he was sent to study abroad at the expense of the prince of Wales (afterwards George IV.), who had been favourably impressed by his skill at the harpsichord. After spending two years at Naples, Attwood proceeded to Vienna, where he became a favourite pupil of Mozart. On his return to London in 1787 he held for a short time an appointment as one of the chamber musicians to the prince of Wales. In 1796 he was chosen organist of St Paul's, and in the same year he was made composer to the Chapel Royal. His court connexion was further confirmed by his appointment as musical instructor to the duchess of York, and afterwards to the princess of Wales. For the coronation of George IV. he composed the anthem, "The King shall rejoice," a work of high merit. The king, who had neglected him for some years on account of his connexion with the princess of Wales, now restored him to favour, and in 1821 appointed him organist to his private chapel at Brighton. Soon after the institution of the Royal Academy of Music in 1823, Attwood was chosen one of the professors. He was also one of the original members of the Philharmonic Society, founded in 1813. He wrote the anthem, "O Lord, grant the King a Long Life," which was performed at the coronation of William IV., and he was composing a similar work for the coronation of Queen Victoria when he died at his house in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, on the 24th of March 1838. He was buried under the organ in St Paul's cathedral. His services and anthems were published in a collected form after his death by his pupil Walmisley. Of his secular compositions several songs and glees are well known and popular. The numerous operas which he composed in early life are now practically forgotten. Of his songs the most popular was "The Soldier's Dream," and the best of his glees were "In peace Love tunes the shepherd's reed," and "To all that breathe the air of Heaven." Attwood was a friend of Mendelssohn, for whom he professed an admiration at a time when the young German's talent was little appreciated by the majority of English musicians.

(2) - (1783-1856), English political reformer, was born at Halesowen, Worcestershire, on the 6th of October 1783. In 1800 he entered his father's banking business in Birmingham, where he was elected high bailiff in 1811. He took a leading part in the public life of the city, and became very popular with the artisan class. He is now remembered for his share in the movement which led to the carrying of the Reform Act of 1832. He was one of the founders, in January 1830, of the Political Union, branches of which were soon formed throughout England. Under his leadership vast crowds of working-men met periodically in the neighbourhood of Birmingham to demonstrate in favour of reform of the franchise, and Attwood used his power over the multitude to repress any action on their part which might savour of illegality. His successful exertions in favour of reform made him a popular hero all over the country, and he was presented with the freedom of the city of London. After the passing of the Reform Act in 1832 he was elected one of the members for the new borough of Birmingham, for which he sat till 1839. He failed in the House of Commons to maintain the reputation which he had made outside it, for in addition to an eager partisanship in favour of every ultra-democratic movement, he was wearisomely persistent in advocating his peculiar monetary theory. This theory, which became with him a monomania, was that the existing currency should be rectified in favour of state-regulated and inconvertible paper-money, and the adoption of a system for altering the standard of value as prices fluctuated. His waning influence with his constituents led him to retire from parliament in 1837, and, though invited to re-enter political life in 1843, he had by that time become a thoroughly spent force. He died at Great Malvern on the 6th of March 1856.

His grandson, C.M. Wakefield, wrote his life "for private circulation" (there is a copy in the British Museum), and his economic theories are set forth in a little book, Gemini, by T.B. Wright and J. Harlow, published in 1844.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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