Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-8kt4b Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-17T04:20:30.716Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Handel as Miscellany

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 February 2023

Alison DeSimone*
University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, MO, USA


During the early eighteenth century, music composed by George Frideric Handel began to circulate in miscellaneous publications of songs and arias. His music appeared in various forms. Some publications, such as four notable pocket collections published in the mid-1720s, preserve the music largely unchanged, although within a new sonic context. Other publications completely transform arias and even overtures into vocal works with new texts, creating layers of musical associations and meanings. Unauthorized appearances of Handel's music in songbook miscellanies and single-sided prints show alternative ways in which consumers may have heard and experienced the composer outside of the opera house or a concert setting. Examining these alternative sources for Handel's music allows for an enriched assessment of which works of the composer were critically and commercially appreciated during the early eighteenth century. Analysing appearances of Handel's music in songbook anthologies also offers insight into how musical miscellanies became ubiquitous forms of the production and reception of his works in the early eighteenth century.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


The author would like to thank members of the American Handel Society for their feedback on an earlier version of this article, given as a conference paper in February 2019. She is also grateful to her anonymous readers for their time and helpful comments.


1 The Opera Miscellany: Being a Pocket Collection of Songs, Chiefly Composed for the Royal Academy of Musick consisting of Select Airs in Rodelinda, Julius Caesar, and other works of Mr Handel. Airs in Calphurnia & the Great Subscription Book of Mr Bononcini, Songs of Mr Attilio Ariosti, some fine English Airs of that Great Master Albinoni, and other authors (London: J. Browne, 1725).

2 Virgil, ‘Alexis: Eclogue 2’, Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneaid, trans. H. R. Fairclough (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Classical Library, 1916), available at, [28].

3 The Opera Miscellany. A copy is held in the British Library (GB-Lbl), Music Collections A.416 (catalogued with the date ‘[1725?]’). At the bottom of the title-page appears this text: ‘The whole Transpos'd for the Flute / by Mr Bolton’. The John Hay Library at Brown University holds a reprint of The Opera Miscellany, catalogued as c1730, that is later than the one just cited (which was the copy consulted for this article); it is from that reprint that Figure 1 is sourced.

4 Hunter, David, Opera and Song Books Published in England, 1703–1726: A Descriptive Bibliography (London: The Bibliographical Society, 1997), 417Google Scholar.

5 On music printing and publishing in the early decades of the eighteenth century see articles, David Hunter'sThe Printing of Opera and Song Books in England, 1703–1726’, Notes 46/2 (1989), 328351Google Scholar, and The Publishing of Opera and Song Books in England, 1703–1726’, Notes 47/3 (1991), 647685CrossRefGoogle Scholar. These articles remain two of the definitive works on music publishing in early eighteenth-century England.

6 Sandra Mangsen has discussed the publication and marketing of songbooks such as The Harpsichord Master and The Ladys Banquet, which include some transformed Handel works, as well as ones by other composers, in Songs Without Words: Keyboard Arrangements of Vocal Music in England, 1560–1760 (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2016), 156–188.

7 On sixteenth-century miscellany practice see Pomeroy, Elizabeth W., The Elizabethan Miscellanies: Their Development and Conventions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973)Google Scholar.

8 Barbara Benedict has written extensively on the history of the literary miscellany in the long eighteenth century, focusing in large part on how the miscellany became its own genre, mediated by both the publisher and its readership. For Benedict's work on the literary miscellany see Making the Modern Reader: Cultural Mediation in Early Modern Literary Anthologies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996); ‘Choice Reading: Anthologies, Reading Practices and the Canon, 1680–1800’, The Yearbook of English Studies 45 (2015), 35–55; ‘Literary Miscellanies: The Cultural Mediation of Fragmented Feeling’, ELH 57/2 (1990), 407–430; and ‘The Paradox of the Anthology: Collecting and Difference in Eighteenth-Century Britain’, New Literary History 34/2 (2003), 231–256.

9 John Playford was the first to publish songbook anthologies on a regular basis. A Musicall Banquet and Musick and Mirth, both published in 1651, were his first publications and were both songbook anthologies. Playford continued to publish collections of songs throughout his career. For a brief history see DeSimone, Alison, The Power of Pastiche: Musical Miscellany and Cultural Identity in Early Eighteenth-Century England (Clemson: Clemson University Press, 2021), 103104Google Scholar. See also Chan, Mary, ‘A Mid-Seventeenth-Century Music Meeting and Playford's Publishing’, in The Well Enchanting Skill: Music, Poetry, and Drama in the Culture of the Renaissance: Essays in Honour of F. W. Sternfeld, ed. Caldwell, John, Olleson, Edward and Wollenberg, Susan (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990), 2344Google Scholar, and Spink, Ian, ‘Introduction’, in Choice Ayres, Songs and Dialogues, Books 1 and 2 (1673–79), John Playford: Music for London Entertainment, 1660–1800, twenty-one volumes, volume A5a (London: Macnutt, 1983)Google Scholar.

10 John Walsh was especially notorious for printing music without the composer's consent or knowledge. According to David Hunter, he was ‘the first to employ unauthorized publication as a standard practice’. See Hunter, , ‘Music Copyright in Britain to 1800’, Music & Letters 67/3 (1986), 272Google Scholar.

11 David Hunter and Robert D. Hume have shown decisively that songbooks – whether single-authored or miscellanies – were luxury goods in early eighteenth-century London, marketed towards the elite and professional classes. A Pocket Companion, for example, retailed at twelve shillings (for subscribers, however, it was a five-shilling deposit, with an additional five shillings and six pence owed upon delivery). On songbook pricing see Hunter, ‘The Publishing of Opera and Song Books’, 675 (Table 2). On the value of money in the early eighteenth century more generally see Hume, Robert D., ‘The Value of Money in Eighteenth-Century England: Incomes, Prices, Buying Power – and Some Problems in Cultural Economics’, Huntington Library Quarterly 77/4 (2015), 373416Google Scholar.

12 Benedict, Making the Modern Reader, 6.

13 On the history of copyright in eighteenth-century Britain see Hunter, ‘Music Copyright in Britain to 1800’ and Rabin, R. J. and Zohn, Steven, ‘Arne, Handel, Walsh, and Music as Intellectual Property: Two Eighteenth-Century Lawsuits’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 120/1 (1995), 112145CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14 The Opera Miscellany (cited above); The Delightful Musical Companion for Gentlemen and Ladies Being a Choice Collection out of All the latest Operas Composed by Mr. Handel, Sig.r Bononcini, Sig.r Ariosti &c., Vol. 1. (London: Peter Fraser, 1726); A Pocket Companion for Gentlemen and Ladies: Being a Collection of the finest Opera Songs & Airs, In English and Italian. A Work never before attempted. Carefully Corrected & also Figur'd for ye Organ, Harpsicord, and Spinet, by Mr. Ri.d Neale Organist of St. James's Garlick-hith, [volume 1] (London: Cluer and Creake, 1724); and A Pocket Companion For Gentlemen and Ladies, Being a Collection of Favourite Songs, out of the most Celebrated Opera's Compos'd by Mr. Handel, Bononcini, Attilio, &c. In English and Italian To which is Added Several Choice Songs of Mr. Handel's, never before Printed Vol. II. Carefully Corrected and Figur'd for the Harpsicord. The Whole Transpos'd for the Flute in the most proper Keys (London: Cluer and Creake, 1725).

15 On these specific anthologies see Mark Allen Rodgers, ‘Taste, Gender, and Nation in the Material Culture of Domestic Musical Performance: The Pocket Opera Anthology in England, 1724–6’ (Honours thesis, University of California Berkeley, 2011), available online at

16 A few recent books have explored the journeys that songs took in the eighteenth century, from original composition to arrangements made to fit new performative contexts, whether in the home, in taverns or on the streets. See Mangsen, Songs Without Words for a consideration of the history of keyboard arrangements from the English virginalists through the virtuosic arrangements of William Babell in the early eighteenth century. For a discussion of song tunes and their adaptations in a slightly later time period see Jensen, Oskar Cox, The Ballad-Singer in Georgian and Victorian London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 Benedict, Making the Modern Reader, 17.

18 Benedict, Making the Modern Reader, 17.

19 DeSimone, The Power of Pastiche, 1–18.

20 DeSimone, Alison, ‘Handel's Greatest Hits: The Composer's Music in Eighteenth-Century Benefit Concerts’, Newsletter of the American Handel Society 31/2 (2016), 2Google Scholar.

21 On pasticcio operas in England generally see DeSimone, The Power of Pastiche, 55–98. On Handel's participation in the practice see Carlo Lanfossi, ‘Handel as Arranger and Producer: Listening to Pasticci in Eighteenth-Century London’ (PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2018) and Reinhard Strohm, ‘Handel's Pasticci’, in Essays on Handel and the Italian Opera (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 164–211. Donald Burrows has written on a pasticcio event involving Handel oratorios; see his chapter ‘Handel's 1738 “Oratorio”: A Benefit Pasticcio’, in Georg Friedrich Händel – ein Lebensinhalt: Gedenkschrift für Bernd Baselt (1934–1993), ed. Klaus Hortschansky and Konstanze Musketa (Halle an der Saale: Händel-Haus and Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1995), 11–38.

22 According to Hunter, Handel may have collaborated with Cluer and Creake on volume 2 of A Pocket Companion (Hunter, ‘The Publishing of Opera and Song Books’, 655). Mangsen has discussed some contexts in which others arranged Handel's music, both for public and private consumption. See her consideration of Handel arias arranged for ballad operas and her analyses of Handel arias arranged as instrumental music in Songs Without Words, 164–166 and 173–188 respectively.

23 Donald Burrows, ‘Editions’, in The Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia, ed. Annette Landgraf and David Vickers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 205–206.

24 Hunter, ‘The Publishing of Opera and Song Books’, 684.

25 On the subscribers to A Pocket Companion, including an analysis of rank and class, see Rodgers, ‘Taste, Gender, and Nation’, 18–20.

26 See DeSimone, The Power of Pastiche, 106–107, and Rodgers, ‘Taste, Gender, and Nation’, 23–25.

27 By the 1760s–1770s new harpsichords in London retailed between twenty-five and ninety-eight pounds, depending on the size (single-manual versus double-manual) and the maker. See Lance Whitehead, ‘Robert Falkener: An Eighteenth-Century Harpsichord Builder, Music Publisher, and Malfeasant?’, The Galpin Society Journal 55 (2002), 315.

28 Rodgers, ‘Taste, Gender, and Nation’, 1–2. Rodgers argues that the timing of volume 1 of A Pocket Companion is significant, because it was released in May, just before the nobility left London for their summer houses.

29 Scholars of English literature have studied the pocket companion in its various literary forms, but little work has been done on the genre from a musicological perspective. For a few representative examples see Batchelor, Jennie, ‘Fashion and Frugality: Eighteenth-Century Pocket Books for Women’, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 32 (2003), 118CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Colclough, Stephen, ‘Pocket Books and Portable Writing: The Pocket Memorandum Book in Eighteenth-Century England and Wales’, The Yearbook of English Studies 45 (2015), 159177CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

30 A Pocket Companion, The Delightful Musical Companion and The Opera Miscellany competed with one another in cornering the market in the 1720s. According to David Hunter, the two volumes of A Pocket Companion were the most successful, selling 992 copies (volume 1) and 945 copies (volume 2), while Peter Fraser's Delightful Musical Companion sold only 250 copies. See Hunter, ‘The Publishing of Opera and Song Books’, 660.

31 For example, The Opera Miscellany includes five Italian arias with English translations. These translations usually appear above or below the original Italian text. Publishers may have opted to include them when there was enough room on the page.

32 For a thorough discussion of Fraser's preface as well as the social implications of using Italian in these books see Rodgers, ‘Taste, Gender, and Nation’, 4–5, 26–39.

33 Mangsen discusses this idea through her first chapter in Songs Without Words, 12–58.

34 Rodgers, ‘Taste, Gender, and Nation’, 3.

35 Those are ‘Non sa temere questo mio petto’ from Amadigi and ‘Se condaste al fine o stelle’ from Il pastor fido.

36 Annette Landgraf, ‘Teseo’, in The Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia, 638.

37 Cluer and Creake's advertisement for A Pocket Companion included a postscript announcing that selections from Giulio Cesare would ‘speedily be published’; The Daily Post (12 June 1724), advertisement, unpaginated.

38 The singers are, in order by number of arias represented across the four opera miscellanies: Francesca Cuzzoni (twenty-nine arias), Senesino (eleven arias), Margherita Durastanti (five arias), Maddalena Salvai (four arias), Margherita de l'Épine (four arias), Giuseppe Boschi (four arias), Francesco Borosini (four arias), Anastasia Robinson (four arias), Gaetano Berenstadt (three arias), Valeriano Pellegrini (two arias), Ann Turner Robinson (one aria), Nicolini (one aria), Jane Barbier (one aria), Caterina Galerati (one aria) and Giuseppe Bigonzi (one aria).

39 Benedict, Making the Modern Reader, 4.

40 On Francesca Cuzzoni's vocal profile and her reception in eighteenth-century Britain see Suzanne Aspden, The Rival Sirens: Performance and Identity on Handel's Operatic Stage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013) and C. Steven LaRue, Handel and His Singers: The Creation of the Royal Academy Operas, 1720–1728 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995).

41 Both ‘Mio caro bene’ from Rodelinda and ‘Non è più tempo’ from Tamerlano were first published in The Opera Miscellany, then in A Pocket Companion volume 2, and finally in The Delightful Musical Companion. Neither was included in the first volume of A Pocket Companion because the anthology was published prior to the premieres of both operas.

42 Mangsen discusses this idea of performance memorialization in her second chapter of Songs Without Words, 59–92.

43 All four songbook miscellanies provide English words to some, although not all, of the arias; they either add to or replace the original text depending on the song. This transformation of Handel's original arias would have made domestic performance of these pieces more appealing, and easier for those who were not native Italian speakers, although Mark Rodgers's research shows that Peter Fraser meant for The Delightful Musical Companion to be a didactic book for learning the Italian language. See Rodgers, ‘Taste, Gender, and Nation’, 2–4.

44 Mangsen, Songs Without Words, 85.

45 Browne's print includes the heading ‘Sung by Borosini in Tamerlano’, thus advertising the singer as eighteenth-century prints often did.

46 I have confirmed that the aria ‘Virgins if yr peace you prize’ (the English title given in The Opera Miscellany) is by Albinoni, and its text continues the theme of calm reassurance. RISM identifies this aria as Albinoni's ‘Vago amabile mio viso’ from his cantata Da l'arco d'un bel ciglio, which appears in manuscript at the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (D-B Mus. Ms. 30136 (3)), as well as in a copy held in the British Library (GB-Lbl), Add. MS 38036.

47 It also does not seem as if the songs are arranged because of practical necessity for preserving space or paper in the print. Each song begins on a new page.

48 The songbook miscellany mimics, in printed form, a similar mixture of songs and styles that an audience member would have enjoyed in the concert halls. On variety concerts in early eighteenth-century London see DeSimone, The Power of Pastiche, 19–54.

49 Benedict, Making the Modern Reader, 7.

50 In some respects this is similar to the ways in which songs from Italian operas were arranged for ballad-opera performances. On ballad opera see Berta Joncus, ‘Ballad Opera: Commercial Song in Enlightenment Garb’, in The Oxford Handbook of the British Musical, ed. Robert Gordon and Olaf Jubin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 31–63.

51 This song may have appeared in Eliza Haywood's The Capricious Lovers of 1727 before it was printed in The Ladys Banquet.

52 I have also found transformations into song of the Musette from Alcina's overture, as well as part of Floridante's overture, which became ‘Oh my treasure, crown my pleasure’.

53 ‘A Bacchanal’ was printed in The Essex Harmony, volume 1 (a miscellany of glees for multiple voices) by John Arnold, but it circulated as a single print earlier in the century. See ‘A Bacchanal’, The Essex Harmony: Being a Choice Collection of the Most Celebrated Songs and Catches Now in Vogue: Several Never Before Published: For One, Two, Three, Four, and Five Voices, ed. John Arnold, third edition, two volumes, volume 1 (London: A. Rivington and J. Marshall, 1786), 122–124.

54 Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson have considered this briefly in the context of John Walsh junior's The Monthly Mask periodical, which appeared between 1717 and 1723 and again between 1737 and 1738. See Baldwin and Wilson, ‘“Reviv'd by the Publisher of the Former Masks”: The Firm of John Walsh and the Monthly Mask, 1717–27 and 1737–8’, Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle 42 (2009), 1–44; see especially 7–8 for a table concerning Handel's music published in this periodical.

55 This song can be found in The Musical Miscellany; Being a Collection of Choice Songs, and Lyrick Poems: With the Basses to each Tune, and Transpos'd for the Flute. By the most Eminent Masters, six volumes, volume 5 (London: John Watts, 1731), 104–105.

56 In yet one more step, the text itself was printed without the music two times: first in The Hive: A Collection of the most Celebrated Songs in Three Volumes, third edition, three volumes, volume 2 (London: J. Walthoe, 1727), 228. The text appeared again in The Lark, Containing a Collection of Above Four Hundred and Seventy Celebrated English and Scotch Songs None of which are contain'd in the other Collections of the same Size, call'd ‘The Syren’, and ‘The Nightengale’ (London: John Osborn 1740), 155. These connections offer an opportunity for further research into how texts of songs circulated even beyond musical prints.

57 For example, in the original score Handel writes a descending scale for the violins in bar 2 and another in bar 3; in Walsh's print, those scales become neighbour-note passages. Walsh adds additional notes to the cadence in bar 4.

58 Walsh and Walsh junior released volumes of oratorio arias as well under this series. See Kidson, Frank, ‘Handel's Publisher, John Walsh, His Successors, and Contemporaries’, The Musical Quarterly 6/3 (1920), 448Google Scholar.

59 On the reuse of plates as practical necessity, and the subsequent legal issues stemming from the practice, see Small, John, ‘The Development of Music Copyright’, in The Music Trade in Georgian England, ed. Kassler, Michael (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), 256293Google Scholar; see especially 290 for a brief mention of Apollo's Feast.

60 Rodgers, ‘Taste, Gender, and Nation’, 4.

61 On the uses of music books in a domestic setting see Harris, Ellen T., George Frideric Handel: A Life with Friends (New York: Norton, 2014), 115150Google Scholar. For a similar kind of imaginative description see Hamilton, Julia, ‘“African” Songs and Women's Abolitionism in the Home, 1787–1807’, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 50 (2021), 153168CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Mangsen describes a similar use for later miscellanies in her discussion of Walsh prints from the early eighteenth century; see Mangsen, Songs Without Words, 59–92, especially 85–91.

62 On the transformation of audiences appreciating miscellany to expressing a preference for homogeneity see Weber, William, The Great Transformation of Musical Taste: Concert Programming from Haydn to Brahms (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)Google Scholar.