Firstly, one of my own favourite writers and historic personalities: Samuel Pepys, born on February 23, 1633 in the heart of London, just off Fleet Street, to real London parents a tailor and the daughter of a Whitechapel butcher. Pepys is known largely these days for his astonishing diaries, now fully in print with excellent and scholarly notes by R. C. Latham and W. Matthews but let us not forget his achievements as a naval administrator, the man who, to some extent, was responsible for the growth of the Royal Navy under Charles II and for reforms that eliminated at least some of the corruption around the building and equipping of ships.
It has been said that were he to live in the early twenty-first century, Pepys would almost certainly have kept a blog. Possibly that is so, though we must not forget that he kept his diary in a short-hand invented by himself. However, there is a blog that produces relevant entries from Sam's own diary for different years and a website that deals with the man as well as his writings.
Someone once asked me whether I'd read the diary right through from beginning to end. No, I replied, it is not something one can do with any pleasure. Those volumes are for dipping in, for leafing back and forth, for getting engrossed and, above all, for quoting on many subjects.
The second birthday is that of George Frideric Handel, born on February 23, 1685 in Halle, the Duchy of Magdeburg to parents who seem to have been completely uninterested in music. Having come to England first in 1710, he decided to settle here in 1712 and proceeded to write a large number of oratorios, operas and other pieces. His influence on English music is almost incalculable and so I shall leave it at that. I am sure many of this blog's readers will know far more on the subject than I do, much though I enjoy Handel's work.
However, I cannot resist two interesting additions. Handel settled down in 1723 at 25 Brook Street in Mayfair and lived there till the end of his life. It is now the home of the Handel Museum. By one of those curious coincidences that history abounds in there is a blue plaque next door to it as well: Jimmi Hendrix lived at 23 Brook Street in 1968 - 69, moving out a year before he died of a drug overdose.
By another coincidence, that is merely personal, I was reading about Rosa Newmarch, in her day and important musicologist but not as well known as she should be these days. She championed Russian music in England, helped to promote Jean Sibelius and later Leoš Janáček, was close to Edward Elgar and Henry Wood as well as many others. In her 1904 book on Henry Wood she wrote of her dislike for the "anaemic" religious music of Britain that flourished throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century, adding that these pieces were
cuckoo eggs, imported from Germany by Handel and Mendelssohn and hatched in British nests to the detriment of our native singing birds, who might otherwise have developed a distinct note of their own.An interesting theory.