Lawes, William

, brother to the preceding, w placed early in life under Coperario, for his musical education, at the expence of the earl of Hertford. His first preferment was in the choir of Chichester, but he was soon called to London, where, in 1602, he was sworn a gentleman of the chapel royal; which place, however, he resigned in 1611, and became one of the private, or chamber-musicians, to Charles, then prince and afterwards king. Fuller says, “he was respected and beloved of all such persons as cast any looks towards virtue and honour:” and he seems well entitled to this praise. He manifested his gratitude and loyalty to his royal master by taking up arms in his cause against the parliament. And though, to exempt him from danger, lord Gerrard, the king’s general, made him a commissary in the royal army, yet the activity of his spirit disdaining this intended security, at the siege of Chester, 1645, he lost his life by an accidental shot. The king is said, by Fuller, to have been so affected at his loss, that though he was already in mourning for his kinsman lord Bernard Stuart, killed at the same siege, his majesty put “on particular mourning for his dear servant William Lawes, whom he commonly called the father of music.

His chief compositions were fantasias for viols, and songs and symphonies for masques; but his brother Henry, in the preface to the “Choice Psalmes” for three voices, which they published jointly, boasts that “he composed more than thirty several sorts of music for voices and instruments, and that there was not any instrument in use in his time but he composed for it as aptly as if he had only studied that.” In Dr. Aldrich’s collection, Christ church,. Oxon, there is a work of his called Mr. William Lawes’s Great Consort, “wherein aresix setts of musicke, six books.” His “Royal Consort” for two treble viols, two viol da gambas, and a thorough-base, which was always mentioned with reverence by his admirers in the seventeenth century, is, says Dr. Burney, one of the most dry, aukward, and unmeaning compositions we ever remember to have had the trouble of scoring. It must, however, have been produced early in his life, as there are no bars, and the passages are chiefly such as were used in queen Elizabeth’s time. In the music-school at Oxford are two large manuscript volumes of his works in score, for various instruments; one of which includes his original compositions | for masques, performed before the king, and at the inns of court.

His anthem for four voices, in Dr. Boyce’s second volume, is the best and most solid composition of this author; though it is thin and confused in many places, with little melody. He must have been considerably older than his brother Henry, though they frequently composed in conjunction; but we are unable to clear up this point of primogeniture. Several of the songs of William Lawes occur in the collections of the time, particularly in John Playford’s Musical Companion, part the second, consisting of dialogues, glees, ballads, and airs, the words of which are in general coarse and licentious. The dialogue part, which he furnished to this book, is a species of recitative, wholly without accompaniment: and the duet at last, which is called a chorus, is insipid in melody, and ordinary in counterpoint. His boasted canons, published by his brother Henry at the end of their psalms, as proofs of his great abilities in harmony, when scored, appear so far from finished compositions, that there is not one of them totally free from objections, or that -bears the stamp of a great master. 1

1 Buraey in Rees’s Cyclopædia. Hwkin.