Saturday, July 28, 2012
Handel as Stingy Host
At a time when Handel's circumstances were less prosperous than they had been, he invited Goupy to dine with him. The meal was plain and frugal, as he had warned his guest it must be; and for this Handel again apologized, adding that he would give him as hearty a welcome as when he could treat with claret and French dishes. Goupy returned a cordial reply; and they dined. Soon after dinner, Handel left the room, and his absence was so long, that Goupy at last, for want of other employ, strolled into the adjoining back-room, and walking up to a window, which looked diagonally on that of a small third room, he saw his host sitting at a table covered with such delicacies as he had lamented his inability to afford his friend. Goupy, to whom possibly such viands had little less relish than to his host, was so enraged, that he quitted the house abruptly, and published the engraving or etching—for my memory does not retain the fact accurately—in which Handel figures as a hog in the midst of dainties.Miss Hawkin's father, Sir John Hawkins, the source of the story, was an acquaintance of Handel.
Here is Goupy's cartoon, titled The Charming Brute:
The following verses appear at the bottom of the cartoon:
The Figure's odd—yet who wou'd think,For a full account of this incident, see Ellen T. Harris, "Joseph Goupy and George Frideric Handel: From Professional Triumphs to Personal Estrangement," The Huntington Library Quarterly 71.3 (2008) 397-452 (at 432-436).
Within this Tun of Meat and Drink,
There dwells a soul of soft Desires,
And all that HARMONY inspires?
Can contrast such as this be found?
Upon the Globe's extensive Round,
There can—yon Hogshead is his seat,
His sole Devotion is to Eat.
A similar story appears in Charles Burney, An Account of the Musical Performances in Westminster-Abbey...in Commemoration of Handel (London: Printed for the Benefit of the Musical Fund, 1785), p. 32, note a:
The late Mr. Brown, leader of his majesty's band, used to tell me several stories of HANDEL's love of good cheer, liquid and solid, as well as of his impatience. Of the former he gave an instance, which was accidentally discovered at his own house in Brook-street, where Brown, in the Oratorio season, among other principal performers, was at dinner. During the repast, Handel often cried out—" Oh—I have de taught;" when the company, unwilling that, out of civility to them, the public should be robbed of any thing so valuable as his musical ideas, begged he would retire and write them down; with which request, however, he so frequently complied, that, at last, one of the most suspicious had the ill-bred curiosity to peep through the keyhole into the adjoining room; where he perceived that dese taughts were only bestowed on a fresh hamper of Burgundy, which, as was afterwards discovered, he had received in a present from his friend, the late lord Radnor, while his company was regaled with more generous and spirited port.Related post: Stingy Hosts.
Thanks to Eric Thomson, who provided most of the material for this post.