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a hero; and he hailed that revolution, which, altering the ordinary mode of succession, expelled James II. from the throne, and drove him into exile. Faithful to his principles, he contemplated with equal pride and pleasure that second revolution which seated the present illustrious house of Brunswick on the throne, and, by limiting the prerogatives of our kings, rendered their reigns more safe and durable.
As a writer, Mr. Meadley rather studied to be useful than elegant. His sentiments were bold and manly; and he discovered on every occasion an inflexible adherence to truth. He delighted greatly in history, and was enabled, by a retentive memory, to shine in conversation, when that subject happened to be introduced. But most of his compositions were of a different description; and it must be allowed that in the lives of Algernon Sidney, Dr. Paley, and Mrs. Jebb, he has added considerably to the stock of English Biography.
List of the Works of the late Mr. Meadley. 1. Memoirs of Dr. Paley, 2 editions, 1 vol. 8vo., 1st edit. 1809; 2d edit. 1810.
2. Memoirs of Algernon Sydney, 1 vol. 8vo. 1813.
3. A Memoir of Mrs. Jebb, Widow of Dr. John Jebb. (It has already been remarked, that this was never published, being printed solely for private distribution.)
4. A Sketch of various Proposals for a Constitutional Reform in Parliament, from 1770 to 1812.
5. Collections for a Life of John Hampden. These being still incomplete, of course were never published.
In addition to the above, Mr. Meadley was a frequent contributor to many periodical publications, particularly the
MADAME DE FELESSENT, BETTER KNOWN BY THE NAME
OF MRS. BILLINGTON. The English nation has of late both cultivated and patronised a taste for music, with a degree of zeal bordering on enthusiasm. Distinguished foreigners, male and female, have accordingly been invited to this country for upwards of a century, and after, enchanting the inhabitants of the banks of the Thames with Italian melody, have retired to the vicinity of the Arno and the Tiber, to spend the remainder of their days in peace,
, luxury, and ease. This country, indeed, can only lay claim to one single vocal performer of native growth, that can be fairly said, to have equalled, nay eclipsed, those prodigies of musical science occasionally imported from the other side of the Alps.
Of this singularly gifted female, the ablest singer of her day, and the richest professional woman in Europe, some memorial ought, assuredly, to be transmitted to posterity. But as it is difficult to detail some of her adventures, without violating the rules of delicacy and decorum, care shall be taken lest any thing offensive should make its appearance in a work which, while it celebrates genius of every kind, respects morals, and lauds all the domestic virtues.
Elizabeth Weicschell, the subject of this brief memoir, was born in London, according to her own statement, in 1769 ; but, on searching the parish register, it will perhaps be discovered that three or four years may be superadded without any great violation of truth; chronological inaccuracies have always been deemed pardonable in the fair sex. Talents of any kind are not now deemed hereditary; yet, if a predisposition to any particular art, can be supposed to exist in the human frame, it will not be difficult to account for the early excellence and surprising execution of this celebrated female; for both her parents had attained some celebrity in the musical world a considerable time before her birth. Her father, Mr. Weicschell, who was a native of Germany, had also some pretensions in point of descent; for he considered himself as a branch of a noble family, and his brother was said to have acted in the capacity of a provincial judge at Erbach. Having resorted to music as a profession, he soon acquired a considerable degree of skill and execution on several instruments, and united himself to a young woman who also excelled in the same art. Mrs. Weicschell, however, attained eminence in a different branch of it. She was the favourite pupil of John Christian Bach*, who came to England in 1763, and distinguished herself in various concerts, during which that excellent master presided. After this we find her in the orchestra at Vauxhall Gardens, where she held the rank of first singer for many years: many fine songs were composed expressly for her t, and, although she never attained the fame of her daughter, yet she long enjoyed a certain degree of reputation.
* The Bachs were a musical family, John Sebastian Bach, the father, became musician to the Duke of Saxe Weimar, and obtained a victory at Dresden, over a famous French organist, who had challenged all the German musicians. His two sons, Charles and John, were also celebrated performers as well as composers. See Burney's Hist. Mus. + Among those, was the much admired rondo,
“ In this shady blest retreat." One of her contemporaries, describes her style, “ as elegant and Aorid, and her voice
Miss Weicschell, while yet a child, displayed a decided propensity to the profession which had obtained bread and celebrity for her parents. Such an early taste for music could not fail to be highly gratifying to them both. Her father, in particular, was eager to initiate his offspring in the first principles of the art, and he was seconded on this occasion by his countryman, Schröeter, together with some of the first masters of the day, who were astonished at her rapid progress and early proficiency. Those lessons which to most beginners are considered as a task, to Eliza Weicschell appeared a pastime. The Piano Forte, was deemed a mere toy, a plaything, which, like a doll, contributed to her amusement as well as delight, and as the keys were incessantly under her fingers, it is but little wonder that she obtained all the advantages to be derived from a good taste and a brilliant execution.
The Amateurs were accordingly astonished at her precocity. When only seven years old she performed a concerto at the little theatre in the Haymarket; and immediately after attaining the age of eleven, she evinced both original talents, and a double degree of merit, by means of a composition of her own production, adapted to her favourite instrument. Her marriage, too, like her life, may be said to have been musical, for, in direct opposition to the will of her parents, she became united to one of the band belonging to Drury Lane. This proved to be Mr. John Billington, under whose care she had been, in some measure, educated, and who was not insensible to those personal attractions which youth, innocence, and beauty, then exhibited in a high state of perfection. The match, however, did not prove happy; for, although both were votaries of the god of music, their harmony was but of short duration,
extensive and melodicus ; although she sometimes affected a ready tone, which, at that time, was too much the fashion."
A son and daughter, emulated, and even excelled their parents, so that like the Bachs, this also may be truly deemed a musical family. They were extremely fortunate too, in another point of view, as they obtained a considerable degree of opulence early in life, by means of which they were exempt from all pecuniary cares.
Scarcely waiting for the completion of the honey-moon, the new-married pair, equally urged by love and poverty, determined to leave England. They accordingly repaired to Dublin: and it was in the theatre of that metropolis, where Mrs. Billington first exerted her vocal powers as an actress. Her debut was propitious in no common degree; and, indeed, such acknowledged merits entitled the fair possessor to every mark of attention. So great, indeed, was her success, that fame soon wafted back the tidings of so brilliant a reception to her native country, and Mrs. Billington was accordingly invited to accept of an engagement at Covent Garden theatre. On her arrival in 1785, the play of “ Love in a Village," so well calculated for the display of musical powers, was commanded by their Majesties, and the new performer, in the character of Rosina, realised the fondest hopes of her numerous friends and admirers. Our heroine, who possessed a great sweetness of voice, accompanied with a considerable portion of taste, from this moment was considered as a first-rate actress, and in this quality maintained her high reputation for a long series of years.
In the course of the following summer, the subject of the present memoir repaired to Paris, for the express purpose of completing her studies, under one of the greatest composers
We now allude to Sacchini *, who died soon after; she was his last pupil indeed, and derived no small benefit from his instructions.
On her return, Mrs. Billington was received with increased rapture by crowded audiences, and contributed not a little to fill the coffers of Covent Garden theatre by her various attractions. But while her theatrical fame was on the increase,
of the age.
* Mrs. Billington had the good fortune to receive the instructions of the first masters of her day. Schröeter, was an instrumental performer, celebrated among the amateurs for the exquisiteness of his taste, the delicacy of his touch, and what is termed
an elegant volatility of fingers."
Sacchini, a native of Naples, compos many operas, and, after residing some time in London, died at Paris, in 1786. From him she quickly caught “much of that pointed expression, neatness of execution, and nameless grace, by which her performance was so happily distinguished.”