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MEMOIR OF MADAME CATALANI.
THE distinguished character who forms the subject of our present memoir, was born in Sinigaglia, a small town in the papal territories, about the year 1782. Though the accident of birth can add nothing, in the sight of universal reason, to those mental or physical qualities which lead to excellence, and which nature only can bestow, it is, however, due to the celebrated ANGELICA CATALANI to say, that she was born of parents highly respectable, though poor; and that this circumstance, which, in England, only facilitates the approach to the temple of fame, was nearly depriving the world of those splendid powers, which are the ad-miration of the present, and will continue to be the theme of future ages. Madame Catalani owed more to birth than to fortune; and she was, therefore, destined to take the veil, like other females similarly circumstanced. When fortune and birth stand at a distance, and view each other with jealous eye, the one too proud to court, and the other too capricious to favour, the nunnery is the only asylum which the pride of birth has discovered, in Italy, to secure the fair sex from the contingencies of circumstances and situations. Angelica, however, discovered such superior powers during her noviciate, in singing the praises of her Creator, that her parents were induced, by the solicitation of friends, to change their intention of withdrawing their daughter from all commerce with the
world. She was, accordingly, suffered to cultivate her musical powers, and the combined energies of nature and of art, soon qualified her to take the first parts in serious opera. Her vocal powers, however, were not the only qualities which recommended her to public favour. Beauty and youth, when accompanied by elegance and grace of deportment, will not easily yield their contested sovereignty to the dominion of music. There is a witchery in beauty as well as in sound; and it is so difficult to say which exercises the strongest influence over the heart and its affections, that the admirers of the fair Angelica were at a loss to determine which recommended her most to public esteem! In the latter, however, she stood unrivalled; in the former, she had many competitors; and if her innocence and beauty were more highly esteemed, it was only because they were found connected with such extraordinary endowments. It is certain, however, that the grace and elegance of her movements and person, heightened and refined as they were by the severe dignity of virtue, rendered her one of those miracles of nature, which only certain ages are permitted to behold.
Her celebrity procured her an invitation from the prince and princess of Brazil, now king and queen of Portugal. The opera house at Lisbon boasted, at this time, some of the first Italian singers in Europe. The fascinating Grassini, and the still more enchanting Crescentini, were among its principal ornaments; and to the instructions of the latter, who was deemed a prodigy in his art, Madame Catalani owes much of the celebrity she has since obtained. She remained five years in Lisbon, on a salary of three thousand
moidores, and was honoured with many presents of great value. During her residence in this capital, she married Monsieur Vallebraque, still retaining the name which had raised her to such celebrity: instead, however, of Signora, she was henceforth known by the name of Madame Catalani. She received letters of recommendation to the royal family of Spain, from the princess of Brazil, who was particularly attached to her; and whose esteem was less founded on her professional eminence, than on her private virtues.
In Spain she was honoured with the friendship of the royal family, and became extremely popular with the nobility and gentry during her residence at Madrid.
After having visited the French metropolis, in 1806, she arrived in England, and appeared at the operahouse, in the Hay Market, in the latter end of that year. Her annual salary was only £2000, and one benefit, a sum not more than half what she received at Lisbon, but she looked forward to that encouragement which, if it is not always, at least should be always, the prize of superior attainments; and her expectations were amply realized.
Madame Catalani made her first appearance on the 13th of December, 1806, in the character of Semiramide; and, to give a full display to her powers, a new composition of Portogallo was substituted for Bianchi's original music, as being more suited to her natural and acquired powers. She was accordingly received with the most unbounded applause, and her fame became every day more firmly established.
In 1808, her salary was increased to £5250, and two clear benefits. Her health, however, did not keep
pace with her fortune, and became as variable as the climate. Madame Dussek, accordingly, was to perform in serious opera, and take the part of Bufla whenever Madame Catalani was unable to perform. A fracas, however, took place between her and Mr. Taylor in 1809, which diminished her popularity in England. Mr. Taylor offered her 60001, and three clear benefits; but though this engagement was highly liberal, she refused to accept of it. The public attributed her refusal to a spirit of avarice, but in doing so, they judged by first appearances. The real motives that prompt us to action, like the latent causes of natural effects, seldom hang on the surface of things, and it requires time and opportunity to trace them to their source. Hence it is, that public opinion is always fallible, though not always erroneous, when its object is the immediate public conduct of individuals; they generally refer the conduct of distinguished persons, to a better or worse source, than that from which it emanates The cause of this error seems to be, that the public judge of all individuals alike who are placed in similar situations, without reflecting, that every individual is the creature of habits, feelings, and impulses, which belong to no other but himself, that these feelings exercise an influence over him which reason can seldom repel, or bend to its own designs; and that, consequently, out of fifty individuals who happen to act alike, not five may be prompted to it by similar motives. One rule, however, should never be forgotten, in regulating our judgments, and that is, that the motive to which we ascribe any action, should always be compared with the general tenor and character of
the actor's life; and out of all the possible motives to which it can be referred, always to select that which harmonizes best with this general tenor and character. Whoever is guided by this rule, and what rule can we discover that approaches nearer to infallibility, must instantly free Madame Catalani from the imputation of avarice, in her quarrel with Mr. Taylor.
Her liberality, and the readiness with which she has always been known to attend, and promote the objects of all charitable institutions, are known and published throughout Europe; and, even when her health has sometimes prevented her from singing in aid of such institutions, her purse has contributed to effect that good, which was sought for from her vocal assistance. The delicacy of her health frequently obliged her to decline many engagements, which were suffici-→ ently tempting, if avarice had been the god of her adoration; and when we know that she refused 240,000 roubles, about 10,000 guineas, from the Muscovite nobility, for giving ten concerts in their ancient capital, we cannot think of ascribing her refusal of Mr. Taylor's offer to a spirit which, if it had existed, would have certainly gratified itself, by embracing the offer of the Muscovite nobility. Perhaps the state of her health, in 1809, was not the sole cause of refusing Mr. Taylor's offer. She thought her brother's talents not sufficiently appreciated by the situation appointed him in the orchestra, and, therefore, as Mr. Taylor refused him the place to which she thought him entitled, it is certain that she acted more under the influence of her feelings than of her reason, at the moment. To him, however, who can make no allowance for that