Battishill, Jonathan

, an English musician and composer, was born in London, 1738. Discovering at a very early age an uncommon genius for music, and having an excellent voice, he was, in 1747, placed in the choir of St. Paul’s, under the tuition of Mr. Savage, then master of the young gentlemen of that cathedral. He was soon qualified to sing at sight, and before he had been in the choir two years, his performances discovered uncommon taste and judgment. On his voice changing at the usual period of life, he became an articled pupil of Mr. Savage, and at the expiration of his engagement, came forth one of the first extempore performers in this country. He had now just arrived at manhood, and having a pleasing, though not powerful voice, a tasteful and masterly style of execution on the harpsichord, a fund of entertaining information acquired by extensive reading, a pleasing manner, and a gay and lively disposition, he possessed, in an eminent degree, the power of rendering himself agreeable in every company; and his society and instruction were courted by persons of the highest ranks. Every encouragement was offered to excite his future efforts, and promote his professional success; and no prospects could be fairer or more nattering than those which he had now before him.

Of these advantages, however, he does not appear to have availed himself in the fullest extent. After leaving | Mr. Savage, we find him composing songs for Sadler’s Wells, and afterwards performing on the harpsichord at Covent-garden theatre, where he married Miss Davies, a singer, hut did not permit her any more to appear in puhlic. Soon after this marriage, he obtained the place of organist to the churches of St. Clement, East-cheap, and of Christ-church, Newgate-street, and about this time published a series of songs, highly creditable to his talents, and his reputation was yet more promoted by composing part of the opera of Alcmena, in conjunction with Mr. Michael Arne. But these and similar compositions did not divert his mind from cathedral music, in which style he composed some excellent anthems, since republished in Mr. Page’s Harmonia Sacra. He also, at the express desire of the Rev. Charles Wesley, father of the present Messrs. Charles and Samuel Wesley, set to music a collection of hymns, written by that gentleman, the melodies of which are peculiarly elegant, yet chaste and appropriate. In the catch and glee style, he also gave convincing proofs of the diversity of his taste and genius, and in 1770 obtained the gold medal given by the noblemen’s catch-club, for his well-known glee “Underneath this myrtle shade.” With such talents, and the approbation which followed the exertion of them, he appears to have relaxed into indifference, and in his latter years seldom came forward as a composer. Except two excellent collections of three and four part songs, and a few airs composed for a collection published by Harrison of Paternoster-row, nothing appeared from his pen for the last thirty years of his life. His time was spent in his library, where he had accumulated a very large collection of valuable books, or in attending his pupils, or in what was, perhaps, as frequent and less wise, in convivial parties. He was blest with an uncommonly strong constitution: but the excesses in which he too frequently indulged, together with his insuperable grief for the loss of his friend colonel Morris, lately killed in Flanders, visibly preyed upon his health; and he became so ill during his last autumn, as to be confined to his chamber. He was advised to try sea-bathing, and the air of Margate, but these rendered him no service. He returned from that place rather worse than when he left town; and, agreeably to the advice of his physicians, took apartments at Islington, where his general debility still continued to increase, and where he expired on Thursday, the | 10th of December, 1801, aged sixty-three years, and was interred, according to his dying wish, in the vaults of St. Paul’s cathedral. Some of the manuscript compositions he left have since been published by Mr. Page. 1


From a account communicated by Dr. Busby to the Monthly Magazine, 1802.