Eccles, John

was the son of the preceding, and from the instructions of his father became an eminent and popular composer for the theatre, furnishing it with act tunes, dance tunes, and incidental songs, in most of the new comedies, after the death of Purcell. The air which he set to “A Soldier and a Sailor,” sung by Ben, in Congreve’s comedy of “Love for Love,” is so truly original and characteristic, that it can never be superseded for any other air. He set an ode> written by Congreve for St. | Cecilia’s day in 1701. He likewise set Congreve’s “Judgment of Paris,” when there was a contention for prizes, and gained the second, of 50 guineas. Several of his single songs were the best of the time, and have still the merit of originality. In his slightest compositions, whether catch, ballad, or rope-dancing tune, there is some mark of genius. Upon the death of Dr. Staggins, about 1698, Eccles, at a very early period of his professional life, was appointed master of queen Amir’s band; and after the decease of Dr. Crofts, in 1727, he seems only to have set the odes, and to have retired from all other professional employments to Kingston, for the convenience of angling, in which amusement he appears to have been as much delighted as Walton. He died in 1735, and was succeeded as master of the king’s band, and composer to his majesty, by Dr. Green.

Eccles had two brothers: Henry, a performer on the violin, said to have been in the king of France’s band, and to have been the author of twelve excellent solos for his own instrument, printed at Paris, 1720; and Thomas, who bad been taught the violin by Henry, and had the character of a very fine player, but preferred the life of a strolling fuller at taverns to that of a regular professor, and was more fond of drinking than either of good company or clean linen. He seems to have been one of the last vagrant bards, who used to inquire at taverns if there were any gentlemen in the house who wished to hear music Since smoking has been discontinued, few evenings are spent in taverns, which has diminished the number of modern minstrels, particularly such as are as well qualified to amuse good company and lovers of music as Tom Eccles, who used to regale his hearers with Corelli’s solos and Handel’s best opera songs, which he executed with precision and sweetness of tone, equal to the most eminent performers of the time. He survived his brother, John, more than twenty years; and continued to officiate as a priest of Bacchus to the last. 1

1

Hawkins’s History of Music. Rees’s Cyclopedia.