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Thomas Arne painted by Johann Zoffany

Thomas Augustine Arne (12 March 1710 – 5 March 1778) was a British composer, best known for the patriotic song Rule, Britannia!. He also wrote a version of God Save the King, which was to become the British national anthem, and the song A-Hunting We Will Go. Arne was the leading British theatre composer of the 18th century, working at Drury Lane and Covent Garden.

Early life[edit]

Arne was born and died in London. His father and grandfather were both upholsterers and both became officials of the City Company of Upholsterers. His grandfather fell upon hard times and died in the Marshalsea Prison for debtors. Arne's father earned enough money not only to rent 31 King Street, a large house in Covent Garden,[1] but also to have Arne educated at Eton College. But later in life, he also managed to lose most of his wealth and had to earn extra cash by acting as a numberer of the boxes at Drury Lane Theatre.

Arne was so keen on music that he smuggled a spinet into his room and, damping the sounds with his handkerchief, would secretly practise during the night while the rest of the family slept. He also dressed up as a liveryman in order to gain access to the gallery of the Italian Opera. It was at the opera that Arne first met the musician and composer Michael Festing, who was a major influence on him. Festing not only taught him to play the violin, but also took him to various musical events, including going to hear Thomas Roseingrave compete for the post of organist at Hanover Square, and a visit to Oxford in 1733 to hear George Frideric Handel's oratorio Athalia.

Upon leaving school, Arne was articled to a solicitor for three years. However, Arne's father discovered his son leading a group of musicians at what was probably one of Festing's musical gatherings. Following this disclosure of his son's real interest and talent, he was persuaded (again probably by Festing) to allow the young Arne to give up his legal career and to pursue music as a living.

He was baptised in the Roman Catholic faith, his mother's religion.[2]

Musical career[edit]

Thomas Augustine Arne, 1778

Arne's sister, Susannah Maria Arne, was a famous contralto, who performed in some of his works, including his first opera, Rosamund. (She would later become known professionally as "Mrs Cibber".) They and their brother Richard would often perform Arne's works together. Between 1733 and 1776, Arne wrote music for about 90 stage works, including plays, masques, pantomimes, and opera. Many of his dramatic scores are now lost, probably in the disastrous fire at Covent Garden in 1808.[3]

Arne was a Freemason[4] and active in the organisation, which has long been centred around the Covent Garden area of London, of which Arne was a native.

Arne's Catholicism meant that he never composed music for the Church of England, unlike most other leading English composers of his time.[2]

On 15 March 1737,[5] Arne married singer Cecilia Young, whose sister, Isabella was the wife of John Frederick Lampe.

Arne's operas and masques became very popular, and he received the patronage of Frederick, Prince of Wales, at whose country home, Cliveden, the Masque of Alfred, featuring "Rule Britannia", was debuted in 1740.

In 1741, Arne filed a complaint in Chancery pertaining to a breach of musical copyright and claimed that some of his theatrical songs had been printed and sold by Henry Roberts and John Johnson, the London booksellers and music distributors. The matter was settled out of court. Arne was certainly one of the very first composers to have appealed to the law over copyright issues.[6]

In 1750, after an argument with David Garrick, Susannah left Drury Lane for Covent Garden Theatre, and Arne followed. In 1755 during a period spent in Dublin, he separated from Cecilia, who, he alleged, was mentally ill. He began a relationship with one of his pupils, Charlotte Brent, a soprano and former child prodigy. Brent performed in several of Arne's works, including the role of Sally in his 1760 opera Thomas and Sally and Mandane in his 1762 opera Artaxerxes. Eventually Brent and Arne went their separate ways and she married a violinist named Thomas Pinto in 1766.

During the 1760s Arne frequently collaborated with the Irish writer Isaac Bickerstaffe. Thomas and Sally was the first English comic opera to be sung throughout (it contained no dialogue).[3] Artaxerxes was one of the most successful and influential English operas of the 18th century and is the only known attempt to write an Italianate, Metastasian opera seria, in the English language.[7] It was frequently performed in London into the 1830s.[8] In a 1791 visit to London, Joseph Haydn was impressed by a performance of Artaxerxes he attended and admitted that he had no idea such an opera existed in the English language.[9]

In 1769 Arne composed the song Soft Flowing Avon, with lyrics by David Garrick, for the Shakespeare Jubilee held by Garrick in Stratford-upon-Avon to commemorate the life of William Shakespeare.

In 1777, shortly before his death, Arne and his wife were reconciled. They had one son, Michael Arne who was also a composer. Arne is buried at St Paul's, Covent Garden, London.

A blue plaque, unveiled in 1988, commemorates Arne at 31 King Street in Covent Garden.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Plaque #233 on Open Plaques.
  2. ^ a b http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7146/is_201001/ai_n49419334/
  3. ^ a b Thomas and Sally, or The Sailor's Return, opera ...: Information and Much More from Answers.com
  4. ^ Website reference at the United Grand Lodge of England.
  5. ^ http://www.ihgs.ac.uk/familyhistory/arne.php
  6. ^ Arne, Handel, Walsh, and Music as Intellectual Property: Two Eighteenth-Century Lawsuits: Ronald J. Rabin and Steven Zohn, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Vol. 120, No. 1 (1995), pp. 112-145
  7. ^ Artaxerxes
  8. ^ http://www.roh.org.uk/whatson/production.aspx?pid=10223
  9. ^ Artaxerxes: the opera that time forgot | Music | The Guardian
  10. ^ "ARNE, THOMAS (1710-1778)". English Heritage. Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  11. ^ "THOMAS ARNE, London, England, UK" at flickr.com


  • McVeigh, Simon. Concert Life in London from Mozart to Haydn. Cambridge University Press, 1993 (2006 reprint).

External links[edit]

Sheet music

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121971 videos foundNext > 

Thomas Arne -- Rule, Britannia!

Edward Barham, Tenor. John Wallace & John Miller, Trumpet. English String Orchestra, William Boughton.

Emma Kirkby: The Morning, Thomas Arne

Thomas Augustine Arne (1710-1778) The Morning (1755) Cantata The glittering sun begins to rise On yonder hill, and paints the skies. The lark his warbling ma...

TH. ARNE, Concerto for Keyboard and Orchestra in G minor, The English Concert/T. Pinnock

Thomas Augustine Arne, 1710-1778 Concerto for Harpsichord, Violin I (4), Violin II (4), Viola (3), Violoncello (2), Double Bass in G Minor: I. Largo-Allegro ...

Arne - Trio Sonatas 6 and 7

Collegium Musicum.

Thomas Arne - Rule Britannia! - The British Empire: Sunrise to Sunset HD

It's kind of difficult to summarize a two hundred years history in just a period of four minutes. But here it is, my version of "Thomas Arne - Rule Britannia...

Thomas Arne - Rise, Glory, Rise

Rise, Glory, rise - Aria from Thomas Arne's Rosamond Emma Kirkby, soprano Pictures taken by me during my journey in Bayern, summer 2011.



Thomas Arne - Sonata for harpsichord No. 8 in G major


Gavot - Thomas Arne, Viscount Envoy 350-F

The Envoy 350-FV was recorded in the Viscount showrooms in Bicester. The instrument is heard through it's own internal speaker system.

Arne - Harpsichord Concerto No. 5 in G Minor - Mov. 1&2/4

THOMAS AUGUSTINE ARNE (1710 - 1778) Concerto No. 5 for harpsichord, ripieno oboes, strings, and basso continuo in G minor 1. Largo 2. Allegro con spirito Per...

121971 videos foundNext > 

18 news items

Boston Globe
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 20:56:15 -0700

Things picked up, though, in songs about love — however disparaging — by Henry Purcell and Thomas Arne. The bawdiest complaints featured the most ingenious engineering: Kelley, Blumberg, and soprano Teresa Wakim (with violinist Daniel Stepner) ...

BBC News

BBC News
Thu, 03 Jul 2014 08:22:30 -0700

... faux pas in the past. David Cameron appeared on the David Letterman Show in America in 2012 and gave the wrong name for the composer of the music to Rule Britannia, naming Edward Elgar instead of Thomas Arne. Edward Elgar was from Worcester.
Tue, 22 Jul 2014 02:45:00 -0700

Homberg. Er grübelt und diskutiert in seiner Freizeit mit Kasseler Doktoranden über physikalische Probleme - Thomas Arne Hensel, 17 Jahre, Gymnasiast aus Borken an der Bundespräsident-Theodor-Heuss-Schule. Arne Hensel in seinem Element: Er ist ...
Ad-Hoc-News (Pressemitteilung)
Thu, 24 Jul 2014 23:33:45 -0700

Er grübelt und diskutiert in seiner Freizeit mit Kasseler Doktoranden über physikalische Probleme - Thomas Arne Hensel, 17 Jahre, Gymnasiast aus Borken an der Bundespräsident-Theodor-Heuss-Schule. weiterlesen ... Dazu meldet epochtimes.de weiter: ...
Ad-Hoc-News (Pressemitteilung)
Tue, 22 Jul 2014 08:11:15 -0700

Mitteilung von www.hna.de: Homberg. Er grübelt und diskutiert in seiner Freizeit mit Kasseler Doktoranden über physikalische Probleme - Thomas Arne Hensel, 17 Jahre, Gymnasiast aus Borken an der Bundespräsident-Theodor-Heuss-Schule. weiterlesen .
Thüringische Landeszeitung
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 02:00:00 -0700

Einen musikalischen Sommernachtstraum auf sehr britische Art genossen die Besucher des Konzert-Events mit der Staatskapelle im Weimarhallenpark. Foto: Maik Schuck. Weimar . Angeln verboten, heißt es auf dem Schild am Weimarhallenteich. "Fishing ...
Prager Zeitung
Fri, 04 Jul 2014 02:56:15 -0700

Die 1440 gegründete Knabenschule in der Nähe von Windsor zählt neben 19 ehemaligen britischen Premierministern auch eine Reihe berühmter Komponisten zu ihren Absolventen, darunter den Komponisten der britischen Nationalhymne Thomas Arne.

Novara Today

Novara Today
Tue, 08 Jul 2014 02:22:30 -0700

... inglese ed europea dal Rinascimento fino all'inizio del ventesimo secolo con pagine di Johann Ludwig Bach, Sebastián de Vivanco, Antonio Lotti, Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi, Clément Janequin, William Byrd, Henry Purcell, Thomas Arne, Robert Lucas de ...

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