Sunday, July 8, 2018

James Bartleman - Regency Celebrity

My first indication of the existence of James Bartleman, "the finest singer that the English school has produced", came from The Picture of London for 1809, and more particularly its column "An Almanac of the Exhibitions and Amusements of London" where he appears in the May entry under
20   Bartleman's Annual Concert, New Rooms, Hanover-square
Morning Post Thursday May 16 1805
 James Bartleman was born in 1769 and by the 1790s after a career in the choir of Westminster Abbey, he was well-known in the musical circles of London. While we still know the names of Signora Catalani and Mrs. Billington, that of Bartleman except in musical history is largely unknown.
by James Thomson (Thompson), after Thomas Hargreaves
stipple engraving, published 1830
Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery
But in The Musical Times of 1853 he was still remembered:
In the 1790s he was a performer at the 'Ancient Concerts' (an abbreviated version of the title for the Concerts of Ancient Music hosted by the Academy of Ancient Music), The Madrigal Society, the Catch Club, and many music festivals and benefit concerts around the country. Eventually he joined the Vocal Concerts, which he later managed and produced.

Morning Post Monday 20 February 1815

London Courier and Evening Gazette Sat  May 6 1815
Such was the popularity of the Vocal Concerts that the songs that were sung there were reproduced as sheet music and were widely sold at the time.
Courtesy of
By 1819 Bartleman was very ill. He had suffered many years in pain (I have not been able to discover what his illness was) and it had at times interrupted his performing career. Note the last sentence of the article below:
Morning Post Monday May 10 1819
He did not however attain a 'perfect recovery'. He died April 15, 1821 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The tablet there is inscribed:
"To the memory of James Bartleman, formerly a chorister and lay-clerk of Westminster Abbey, and Gentleman of His Majesty's Royal Chapel. Educated by Dr Cooke he caught all the taste and science of that great master, which he augmented and adorned with the peculiar powers of his native genius. He possessed qualities which are seldom united, a lively enthusiasm, with an exact judgment, and exhibited a perfect model of a correct stile, and a commanding voice; simple, and powerful; tender and dignified; solemn, chaste, and purely English, his social and domestick virtues corresponded with these rare endowments: affectionate and liberal; sincere, and open hearted; he was not less beloved by his family and friends, than admired by all for his preeminence in his profession. He was born 19th September 1769, Died 15th April 1821, and was buried in this cloister, near his beloved master".
A fitting monument, surely, for a true celebrity of the Regency era, and a great musician.

'Til next time,