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 Thomas Arne

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Thomas Arne

  • Birth 12 Mar 1710 Covent Garden, London Borough of Camden, Greater London, England
  • Death 5 Mar 1778 London, City of London, Greater London, England
  • Burial Covent Garden, London Borough of Camden, Greater London, England
  • Memorial ID 6496

Composer. He was a leading creator of English theatre music. His fame rests on the song "Rule Brittania" (1740), one of the most enduring patriotic anthems ever written. Arne was born in London. The son of a prosperous upholsterer, he was educated at Eton College and trained as a lawyer. At the same time he secretly pursued musical interests, and it is said he disguised himself as a liveryman to gain access to the gallery of London's Italian Opera. There he met composer Michael Festing (died 1752), who became his good friend and teacher. Festing persuaded Arne senior to let his son give up legal studies for music. Arne went on to compose such operas as "Rosamund" (1733), "Tom Thumb" (1733), "Comus" (1738), "Judith" (1761), Artaxerxes the Great" (1763), "The Fairy Queen" (1771), and "Caractacus" (1775), as well as the oratorio "The Death of Abel" (1744), and "Four Symphonies" (1767). Working for the Drury Lane Theatre in the 1740's, he also wrote incidental music for several Shakespeare plays, including "As You Like It", "Twelfth Night", "The Merchant of Venice", "The Tempest", "Love's Labour's Lost", and "Romeo and Juliet". A Roman Catholic, Arne was barred from most of England's professional music posts, though for a while he enjoyed the patronage of Frederick, the Prince of Wales. "The Masque of Althred" (1740), featuring "Rule Brittania", was first performed at the Prince's summer home, Cliveden. The composer's sister, Susannah Arne, was a famous singer, and their careers were closely linked. He wrote many of the contralto roles in his operas for her, and when Susannah left Drury Lane over a salary dispute in 1750, Arne followed her to the rival Covent Garden. In 1736 he married another singer, Cecilia Young. They seperated in 1755 (he claimed his wife was mentally ill), but they reconciled in 1777, a year before Arne's death. Today "Rule Brittania" remains one of the most recognizable musical symbols of Britain.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 29 Sep 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6496
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas Arne (12 Mar 1710–5 Mar 1778), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6496, citing St. Paul's Churchyard, Covent Garden, London Borough of Camden, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .