Pepusch, John Christopher
PEPUSCH, JOHN CHRISTOPHER (1667-1752), an eminent musical theorist and composer, was born in 1667, at Berlin, in which city his father was minister of a Protestant congregation. At the early age of fourteen his talents attracted the notice of the Prussian court, in which he held some appointment till he attained his thirtieth year, when, being eye-witness of a murderous act of tyranny perpetrated by Frederick I, he resolved to quit his country. He first visited Holland, where he remained upwards of a year: then proceeded to London, and about 1700 was engaged to take the harpsichord at Drury-lane theatre, and, it is supposed, assisted in preparing for the stage Thomyris, as well as other operas. At the same time he commenced his inquiries concerning the music of the antients, for which pursuit his knowledge of the learned languages and studious habits highly qualified him. In these investigations he received no inconsiderable aid from his friend De Moivre, the mathematician. Though he had persuaded himself that the music of the Greeks was far superior to anything that the moderns were capable of producing, yet he did not hesitate to compose much, and was successful; though but one of his many works is known to the present age - cantata, 'See from the silent grove Alexis flies,' which has always been, and probably always will be, admired by every person of true taste.
In the year 1710 this active and indefatigable musician was one of the founders of the Academy of Antient Music, which was formed on so judicious a plan that it subsisted upwards of eighty years. In 1712 he, together with Handel, was engaged by the Duke of Chandos (Pope's Timon) to compose for the chapel at Cannons. The next year he was admitted by the university of Oxford to the degree of doctor in music. In 1724 he was persuaded by Dr. Berkeley to join in the visionary scheme for establishing a college at the Bermudas, and actually embarked for the purpose; but the ship being wrecked, the project was speedily abandoned. He now entered into the matrimonial state with the celebrated singer Signora Margarita de l'Epine, who brought him a fortune, acquired by her profession, of ten thousand pounds. This addition - great in those days - did not induce him to relax in his pursuits: he selected and adapted, with admirable skill, the music for The Beggar's Opera, for which he composed the overture. In 1731 appeared his Treatise on Harmony, which long continued a standard work, and is still read by students who are wise enough to make themselves acquainted with the best writers on the ort. In the year 1737 he was chosen organist of the Charter House, an appointment he solicited more for the sake of the apartments and the learned and agreeable society it afforded than with any pecuniary view. Three years after this he lost his wife; his only son having died some time before. He now found relief in his studies, to which, and in giving instructions to a few favourite pupils, he devoted himself wholly. In 1746 was read before the Royal Society his account of the Antient Genera, which appears in volume 44, No. 481, of the 'Philosophical Transactions;' previous to which however he had been elected a fellow of that learned body. Dr. Pepusch died in 1752, and was buried in the chapel of the Charter House.
Note - this article incorporates content from The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1840)