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James, Kenneth Edward

Concert Life in Eighteenth-Century Bath

Ph.D. Royal Holloway College, University of London, 1987

The years 1700 to 1800 form a natural period for any study relating to Bath's history, since the development ot the city gained such momentum following the visits of Queen Anne in 1702 and 1703 that, for the rest of the century, Bath served as the nation's foremost resort, attracting not only those seeking health and pleasure, but also many of the social, political, religious and artistic leaders of British society. Yet within a few years of the century's close the city had become a relatively dull centre of retirement for the elderly and infirm. This study examines the role of major musical performances in Bath as the city established its role as the country's "capita1 of fashion", and considers three important questions:

1. How vital was music in the lives of the visitors and inhabitants in eighteenth-century Bath?

2. How did the city's concert life develop during the period?

3. How significant was the contribution of individual performers and composers?

These questions are answered in two main sections:

Section A provides a broad survey of the society in which Bath's music flourished: its attitudes and the impetus its demands created. The genera1 life of those who responded to the opportunities for music-making within that society and the music they performed are also considered in this section.

Section B traces the development of Bath's concert life from the earliest known "consorts" during intervals at the balls and the "music-meetings" held by a few friends in the city's inns and taverns to the large-scale performances presented in the Abbey and in the brilliant elegance of the New Assemb1y Rooms later in the century.

In addition, the Appendices outline the known contribution of individual performers and composers to Bath's musical life during the period.