England, My England
In Their Own Words
Who e'er like Purcell could our passions
Whoever sang so feelingly of love?
Henry Hall, fellow student
A greater musical genius England never had
Roger North, 1726
I had never realised, before I first met Purcell's music, that words could be set with such ingenuity, with such colour
Benjamin Britten, 1945
He was superior to all his predecessors, that his compositions seemed to speak a new language' yet, however different... it was universally understood
Charles Burney, 1776
If Purcell had lived, he would have composed better music than this
George Frideric Handel, about his own music, 1726
On Charles II
He spends all his days
In running to plays,
When in the shop he shou'd be poreing
And wasts all his nights
In constant delights
Of Revelling, Drinking and Whoreing
Tho' oft bound to the peace,
He wou'd never cease
But molested the neighbours with Quarrells
And when he was beate
He still made a retreate
To his Cleavelands, his Nells and his Carwells
Andrew Marvell, Upon his Majesties being made free of the City
On William III
There is a great deal of talk about the Prince of Orange's wedding. It is said that he went to bed in woollen drawers on his wedding night. When Charles II suggested that he might care to take them off, he replied that his wife would have to get used to his habits; he was accustomed to wearing his woollens and had no intention of changing now."
The Duchesse D'Orleans
I sing the story of a scoundrel lass
Rais'd from a Dung-Hill to a King's embrace.
The Lady of Pleasure, anonymous, c1687
...thence walked with [Charles II] through St James's Park to the garden, where I both saw and heard a very familiar discourse between him and Mistress Nellie as they call the impudent comedian, she looking out of her garden on a terrace at the top of the wall, and the king standing on the green walk under it: I was heartily sorry at this scene: Thence the king walked to the Duchess of Cleveland's, another lady of pleasure and curse of our nation.
John Evelyn, Diary, 1671
On The Fire of London
Light seen for above 40 miles round-a-bout. The noise and cracking and thunder of the impetuous flames, the shrieking of women and children, the hurry of people, the fall of towers, houses and churches, was like a hideous storm, and the air all about was so hot and inflamed that at the last one was not able to approach it.
John Evelyn, Diary, 3 September 1666
Now day appears and with the day the King,
Whose early care had robbed him of his rest;
Far off the cracks of falling houses ring
And shrieks of subjects pierce his tender breast.
Near as he draws, thick harbingers of smoke
With gloomy pillars cover all the place;
Whose little intervals of night are broke
By sparks that drive against his sacred face.
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Page updated 12 June 2002