Music – John Dowland

Born 1562 died 1626. Dowland was born in Ireland (Dowlan and Dolan). At eighteen he went to Paris as a page in the train of Sir Henry Cobham, and during his three years’ stay there became a Roman Catholic. At twenty-six he took the Mus. Bac. degree at Oxford, and a few years later went to Italy to study with Marenzio. On his return he became a Protestant again, and resided, as a graduate, at Trinity College, Dublin. At thirty-five he brought out a book of Songs with Lute accompaniment that became very popular and went through five editions. At thirty-six he was appointed Court Lutenist to the King of Denmark. At forty-seven he returned to England. He held various positions here, being Lutenist to Lord Walden, and later one of the Six Lutenists of Charles I. For years he had been making a large income abroad, but he had spent money freely and he died poor and embittered. Dowland’s fame as a Lutenist was great, and he received many offers of preferment

‘ When I came to the Duke of Brunswick he used me kindly and gave me a rich chain of gold, £23 in money, with velvet and satin and gold lace to make me apparell, with promise that if I would serve him he would give me as much as any prince in the world. From thence I went to the Lantgrave of Hessen, who gave me the greatest welcome that might be for one of my quality, who sent a ring into England to my wife, valued at £20 sterling, and gave me a great standing cup with a cover gilt, full of dollars, with many great offers for my service. From thence I had great desire to see Italy and came to Venice and from thence to Florence, where I played before the Duke and got great favours.’

Dowland also boasted that his works had been published at Paris, Antwerp, Cologne, Nuremberg, Frankfort, Leipzig, Amsterdam, and Hamburg.

FURTHER READING. Longish article by W. Barclay Squire in Grove’s Dictionary ; chapter on Dowland and other English Lutenist-Composers in Fellowes’ English Madrigal Composers ; passages in Anderton’s Early English Music; passages in Walker and in Davey.

PRINTED MUSIC. The Lute Songs are edited by Fellowes (Winthrop Rogers, 2 vols. ready and 2 more to come, each 6s.). The original Lute notation (‘ Tablature ‘) is shown, together with a strict transcription of this into modern notation and also a piano accompaniment worked out of it—a thoroughly honest method and one but too rarely employed by editors of old music. Other composers are, or are to be, similarly treated ; indeed the series is eventually to include all the Lute Song literature of the Elizabethan and Early Jacobean period. A number of Dowland’s Madrigals are separately published by Novello.