Waart, Edo de. 56 Wachmann, Eduard 56

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Webb, William

(b c1600; d London, bur. 16 March 1657). English composer. He was employed to teach ‘division’ to the daughter of Thomas and Judith Edwards at £3 a quarter between April 1627 and October 1628. (Edwards, who had died in 1625, was a London mercer, with a country house near Wadhurst in Sussex). He is next heard of singing tenor and playing the lute in Shirley’s masque The Triumph of Peace (1634). In 1637 he became a wait of the City of London and was still serving as such in 1645, though how he managed to combine the duties with that of a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal (which he became in 1640) is not clear. According to Anthony Wood he took a house in Charterhouse Yard at the beginning of the Civil War, and there he taught singing for ‘maintainance sake’. John Playford’s list of London music teachers printed in A Musicall Banquet (RISM 16516) included him ‘For the Voyce or Viole’. He was one of the instrumentalists in Davenant’s The Siege of Rhodes (1656). He was buried at St. Margaret's, Westminster.

Some of his songs occur in manuscripts begun or compiled in the early 1620s (GB-Och 87; Lbl Add.29481; US-NYp Drexel 4175), so his date of birth can hardly be later than 1600 or so. His style was less declamatory than Henry Lawes’s, and he inclined more to composing partsongs for such convivial collections as Playford’s Catch that Catch Can (RISM 165210, 16585, 16636, 16676); though simple, these songs are among the most agreeable of their time. There are further manuscripts in which his songs occur (GB-Lbl Add.10337 and Eg.2013; Ob Don.c.57; and Gu R.d.58–61), and six are printed in a modern edition (MB, xxxiii, 1971). (AshbeeR, iii, viii; BDECM; SpinkES)



English family of musicians.

(1) Samuel Webbe (i)

(2) Samuel Webbe (ii)

(3) Egerton Webbe



(1) Samuel Webbe (i)

(b ?London, 7 Oct 1740; d London, 25 May 1816). Composer, organist and bass singer. He was generally acknowledged as the most important composer of the glee. His father died in Minorca, where he held a government post. Sources vary as to whether his wife had already moved there before their child was born. As a result of legal complications, the widow was left in poor circumstances, and Samuel received little education. He was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker at the age of 11, which profession he left after the requisite seven years. He then began work as a copyist at John Welcker’s music shop in Gerard Street, Soho. It was there that he met Barbandt, organist at the Bavarian Embassy Chapel, from whom he received his first, and only musical education. Webbe married Anne Plumb at St Marylebone Parish Church on 30 May, 1763. It was about this time that he became active as a composer.

Webbe was elected a Privileged Member of the Noblemen’s and Gentlemen’s Catch Club in 1771. He had been associated with the club since at least 1766, when he won the first of the annual prize medals that were offered to encourage new compositions, with his canon O that I had wings. He continued to win medals and cash premiums until 1792. In 1784 he succeeded Thomas Warren as secretary of the club, a position that he held until 1812. Upon its foundation in 1787 he became librarian of the Glee Club. He composed several hundred catches, canons, rounds and glees, and wrote many of the texts. His works display a broad stylistic range, from short, witty, three-part catches and more serious canons (in which there is a marked delight in technical proficiency), to the glees, whose sectional nature is designed to reflect more closely the changes in mood of the text. His contribution to the field of the glee was such that his compositions were recognized as the standard to which both his contemporaries and successors aspired. It is unfortunate that Glorious Apollo became his most famous glee, by virtue of its being sung at the opening of every meeting of the Glee Club, as it is far from representative of his talents.

In 1775 Webbe became organist at the Sardinian Embassy Chapel, a post held earlier in the century by Arne. He was closely associated with the other Catholic embassy chapels in London, where his music was also performed. In 1782 he contributed some items to a volume mostly containing plainchant, and three years later he published a collection of his own music, as used at the Sardinian chapel. A Collection of Masses and a further volume of motets appeared in 1792. His compositions became widely used in the Catholic church in the 19th century, mainly as a result of arrangements by Novello. He was influential as a teacher, providing free instruction on Friday evenings at the chapel ‘to such young gentlemen as present themselves to learn church music’. Among his pupils were Danby, Dignum, Knyvett and Novello, who were choristers at the chapel. He almost certainly influenced the young Samuel Wesley, who became a friend of his son, Samuel.

Much of his Catholic Church music is in a simple homophonic style, as would have suited the mostly amateur singers who made up the embassy choirs of the time. Of much greater interest are the solos and duets within these works. They reflect the taste and conventions of contemporary operatic writing, including provisions for cadenzas, and the growing influence of the Viennese Classical style. With the number of continental singers in London at the time, and with his own involvement in opera, it seems more than likely that he would have had the services of professional soloists to do justice to such works. Subsequent generations turned away from the graceful miniatures of Webbe towards the larger works of the Viennese school, popularized early in the 19th century by Novello in the Portuguese Embassy Chapel.

Webbe also sang as a professional bass. The contemporary Catholic writer Charles Butler relates that Webbe was called in an emergency to sing the role of Mengotto in Piccinni’s La buona figliuola. His name appears on the cast lists at Drury Lane, Covent Garden and the King’s Theatre, where he sang the role of Count Baccellone in Gassmann’s La contessina in January 1774. He was also connected with the pleasure gardens at Marylebone and Vauxhall, and his own compositions were performed there. His obituary in The Gentlemen’s Magazine contains the comment: ‘As an English composer, he will always rank with Lock, Morley, Purcell and Arne’, yet with the demise of the glee Webbe’s reputation declined dramatically. Throughout his compositions elements of the continuing influence of Handel blend with the Classical style, as a result of his contact with continental composers such as J.C. Bach and Abel working in London. Some of his Anglican compositions, in which Webbe was careful to adhere to the tradition of the verse anthem, survived in use into the 20th century. His most enduring works, however, are his hymn tunes, particularly ‘St Thomas’, ‘Tantum ergo’, ‘Veni Sancte’ and ‘Melcombe’.


all printed works published in London

latin sacred vocal

An Essay on the Church Plain Chant (1782) [E]

A Collection of Sacred Music as used in the Chapel of the King of Sardinia (c1785) [K]

A Collection of Masses with Accompaniment for the Organ (1792) [M]

A Collection of Motetts or Antiphons (1792) [L]

Masses: (d), S, T, B, org, K; (G), 4vv, org, K; (A), S, B, org, M; (B), S, B, org, M; (C), S, B, org, M; (D), S, B, org, M; (F), T, B, org, M; (F), A, T, B, org, M; ‘Seventh’ (F), 3vv, arr. for 4vv by J.F. Barnett (1864); 1st Requiem Mass (g), 3vv, arr. for 4vv by V. Novello (1864); 2nd Requiem Mass (e), 3vv, arr. for 4vv by V. Novello (1864); Anthem Mass (d/D), S, A, T, B, 4vv, org, GB-Lbl, ed. V. Novello (1826)

Mag: (D), 4vv, org, K; (F), S, S, B, org, K; (G), 4vv, K; (E), S, S, A, T, B, org, K; (F), 5vv, L; (A), S, A, B, org, ed. V. Novello (1822); (D), 4vv, org (1872)

Ad te Domine levavi (F), B, org, K; Alma Redemptoris (B), S, S, org, K; Alma Redemptoris (D), S, 4vv, org, L; Ascendit Deus (D), S, S, org, K; Asperges me (D), 4vv, org, ed. V. Novello (1815); Attollite portas (C), 4vv, org, L; Audi Domine hymnum (C), T, 4vv, org, K; Ave maris stella, 4vv, org, ed. V. Novello (1822); Ave regina (D), S, S, org, K; Ave regina (C), 4vv, org, K; Ave regina (F), 4vv, L; Benedicamus (F), S, S, org, L; Cantantibus organis (E), 3vv, org, L; Da mihi, Domine (F), A, T, org, K; Deus misereatur (A), T, B, org, L; Ecce nunc tempus (E), 4vv, org, L; Ecce sacerdos magnus (E), T, B, org, L; Emitte spiritum tuum (A), 3vv, org, L; Exaudi Domine (g), B, org, K; Ex ore infantium (F), S, S, 4vv, org, L; Exurgat Deus (E), 4vv, K; Haec dicit Dominus (F), 4vv, org, L; Haec dies quam fecit Dominus (B), T, T, B, org, L; In manus tuas, Domine (G), 4vv, L; In manus tuas, Domine (E), 5vv, K; Iste confessor, 4vv, org, ed. V. Novello (1822); Jerusalem (F), 4vv, org, L; Juste et pie vivamus (G), S, S, org, L; Justorum animae (F), S, S, org, K

Lauda anima mea Dominum (F), S, org, K; Lauda Sion (A), S, S, B, org, L; Lucis creator, 4vv, org, ed. V. Novello (1815); Nunc dimittis (a), T, B, org, L; O filii (g), 4vv, org, L; O Jesus Deus magne (B), S, S, org, L; O Rex gloriae (B), S, B, org, L; O Roma felix (G), S, B, org, L; O sacrum convivium (F), S, 4vv, org, K; O sacrum convivium (G), S/T, B, org, L; O salutaris hostia (F), S/T, B, org, E; O salutaris hostia (F), S, S, org, K; Perfice gressus (F), S/T, org, L; Per omnia saecula saeculorum (F), 4vv, L; Preces populi tui (a), 4vv, org, L; Protector in te sperantium Deus (G), S, A, org, L; Qui seminant (a), S, S, chorus, org, ed. V. Novello (1815); Regina caeli (A), S, S, 4vv, org, L; Rorate coeli (A), S, S, S, 4vv, org, L; Sacris solemnis (F), 4vv (1854); Salve regina (G), S, T, B, K; Salve regina (D), S, T, B, B, org, K; Salve regina (E), S, org, K; Salve regina (F), S, T, B, org, L; Sancta Maria, succurre (D), S, S, 4vv, org, L; Stabat mater (G), 2vv, org, E; Super flumina Babylonis (g), 4vv, org, K; Tantum ergo (F), 2vv, E; Tantum ergo (F), S, S, S, org, K; Tantum ergo (F), T, SATB, Lbl; Tantum ergo (d), 4vv, org, K; Tantum ergo (G), 4vv, org, K; Tantum ergo (C), S, S, 4vv, org, K; Tantum ergo (A), 4vv, org, L; Tantum ergo, Lbl; Te lucis ante terminum, 4vv, org, ed. V. Novello (1822); Tibi omnes angeli (F), 4vv, org, L; Tu elegisti (F), A, T, B, B, org, ed. V. Novello (18915); Tu es gloria mea (A), B, org, K; Veni sancte spiritus (F), S, B, org, L; Victimae paschali (D), 4vv, org, L; Vidi aquam (B), S, B, org, L

Chants, psalm tones, etc., E, K, L, GB-Lbl

english sacred vocal

8 Anthems in Score for the Use of Cathedrals and Country Choirs (c1785) [X]

12 Anthems (c1801) [Y]

all accompanied by organ

Almighty God, we beseech thee, 4vv, Y; Christ being raised, S, S, B, 3vv, Y; How excellent is thy mercy, A, T, B, 4vv, X; How lovely are thy dwellings, S, S, B, 3vv, Y; Let the heavens rejoice, S, S, B, 3vv, Y; O Lord, hear the prayer of thy servants, A, T, B, 4vv (c 1800); O Lord, my king, T, B, 3vv, Y; Salvation belongeth unto the Lord, S, S, B, 4vv, Y; Save us, O God, 4vv, X; Shew me thy ways, O Lord, S, S, B, 3vv, Y; Sing unto the Lord, S, S, B, 4vv, Y; Teach us, O Lord, A, T, B, 4vv, X; The day is thine, S, A, T, B, 4vv, Y; The eyes of all wait upon thee, S, S, B, 3vv, Y; The heav’ns declare, B, 4vv, X; The Lord is the portion of the just, S, S, 4vv, X; The soul that sinneth, S, S, T, B, 4vv, Y; Thou, Lord, in the beginning, S, S, A, T, B, B, X; Unto thee, O Lord, T, B, 4vv, X; When the fullness of time, S, A, T, B, 4vv, X; When the Lord shall build up Sion, S, S, B, 3vv, Y

O Lord, hear the prayer of thy servants (c1800)

A Collection of Original Psalm Tunes, 3–4vv (c1806) [with S. Webbe (ii)]

secular vocal

for a complete list see Weaver

The Ladies Catch Book (after 1768)

2nd to 9th Book of Catches, Canons and Glees, 3–6vv (c1771–95)

A Selection of Glees, Duets, Canzonets, etc. (1812)

6 Original Glees, ed. S. Webbe (ii) (1840)

Numerous glees, catches, canons, etc., pubd singly and in 18th- and 19th-century anthologies incl.: A Collection of Catches, Canons and Glees, ed. T. Warren, vi–xxxii (after 1767 – after 1793); Amusement for the Ladies, 3–5vv (c1780); The Ladies Collection of Catches, ii–vi (1785–); The Professional Collection of Glees (1791); The Favourite New Glees (1792); J. Sale: A Collection of New Glees (?1800); A Selection of Glees from the MSS of the Concentores (?1800); Vocal Harmony, i–viii (c1810–30)

6 Canzonetts, 2vv (c1789); other canzonets pubd singly, in 18th-century anthologies and in A Fourth Book of Catches, Canons and Glees (c1778)

Divertimenti a Tavola, 6 Little Duets Unaccompanied (c1790)

6 Favourite Songs in The Pianoforte Magazine, i/8 (1797); other songs and cants. pubd singly and in 18th-century anthologies

Arrs.: A Miscellaneous Collection of Songs, etc. (1798); A Collection of Selected Melodies (c1805)


6 Sonatas, pf/hpd (c1780)

2 pieces, org, Lbl Add.14335; contains transcs. by Webbe of pieces by other 18th-centuryt composers; some anonymous works may be by Webbe; see Weaver


Singing tutors: L’amico del principiante (c1790); 42 Vocal Exercises (1798)


The Laity’s Directory (London, 1792)

Obituary, Gentleman’s Magazine, new ser., ix (1816), 569, 643–4

J. Taylor: ‘To the editor – Mr Taylor on Webbe’s Masses’, Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, i (1818), 297–30

C. Butler: Historical Memoirs Respecting the English, Irish and Scottish Catholics (London, 1819), ii, 342

Biographical sketch, The Harmonicon, xi (1833), 185 only

W.A. Barrett: English Glee and Madrigal Writers (London, 1877), 34–5

D. Baptie: Sketches of the English Glee Composers (London, 1896), 30–33

E.E. Reynolds, ed.: The Mawhood Diary (London, 1956)

P. Weaver: Samuel Webbe (diss., U. of Reading, forthcoming)


(2) Samuel Webbe (ii)

(b London, 15 Oct 1768; d London, 25 Nov 1843). Organist and composer, eldest son of (1) Samuel Webbe (i). He followed a similar career to that of his father, who was his main teacher. He was organist of the Bavarian Embassy Chapel by 1791; of the Unitarian Chapel, Liverpool, from about 1798 to 1817; of the Spanish Embassy Chapel, London, from 1817; and from the late 1820s at St Nicholas’s, Liverpool, and St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Chapel, Toxteth Park. He was a founder-member of the Philharmonic Society in London in 1813, and a director from 1815 to 1817; in London he also established a piano academy, teaching according to Logier’s system. Webbe composed many glees, catches and songs; the music for an operatic farce, The Speechless Wife (Covent Garden, 22 May 1794); masses and other Catholic church music; psalm and hymn tunes; four harp sonatas; and a considerable amount of piano music. His fine technique and sense of style is shown in his Sonata in E for piano duet (?1809, repr. in LPS, xix, 1986).


DNB (P. Olleson)

MGG1 (F. Flindell) [with list of works]

B. Matthews: The Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain: List of Members 1738–1984 (London, 1985), 153


(3) Egerton Webbe

(b Liverpool or London, 1810–1811; d Liverpool, 24 June 1840). Composer and journalist, son of (2) Samuel Webbe (ii). He was named after an uncle, the Liverpool publisher Egerton Smith. In the early 1830s Webbe worked in London as a literary assistant to Leigh Hunt, showing an uncommon wit and flair for both scholarship and criticism. Besides philological essays for Hunt's London Journal (c1834–6), poems in Bentley's Miscellany (1837) and contributions to the Monthly Repository and Atlas (1837), Spectator and Monthly Chronicle (1838), he wrote chiefly for the Musical World (1837–9). With his friend Edward Holmes, he co-edited that magazine between October 1838 and April 1839, relying on Hunt as a star contributor. The editors made a bold attempt to take over the journal's ownership and sharpen its intellectual appeal (recorded in letters from Webbe to Hunt now in the British Library), but the episode came to nothing.

Like Holmes, Webbe criticized the state of English music and advocated deeper study of Italian and German models, notably J.S. Bach. His performance reviews are sensitive to facial expressions in a listening audience: Webbe himself was partially deaf and found the lack of enthusiasm in English performers only one of the nation's ‘musical wants’. As a composer, he had undoubted gifts. He wrote a comic opera, Love in the City, to his own libretto, which impressed Holmes and was accepted in mid-1837 by Bunn for performance at the English Opera House but never staaged (singers resisted its technical and dramatic demands); and his organ Prelude and Fugue in A major (op.1, 1837), was widely acclaimed. Webbe also contributed some incidental music to Hunt's Legend of Florence (1840, Covent Garden). His premature death from tuberculosis caused much sadness. Louisa Sarah Webbe, one of Egerton's sisters, married Edward Holmes in 1857.


E. Webbe: ‘Our Musical Wants’, Musical World, v (1837), 177–82; vi (1837), 81–5, 113–17, 193–9

Obituary, Gentleman's Magazine, new ser., xiv (1840), 329

[E. Holmes]: ‘The English Lyric Stage … with Some Account of an Opera by the late Egerton Webbe’, The Spectator (23 Sept 1843)

L. Hunt: The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt (London, 1850, rev. 2/1860 by the author), 419–20

F. Routh: Early English Organ Music from the Middle Ages to 1837 (London, 1973)

L. Langley: The English Musical Journal in the Early Nineteenth Century (diss., U. of North Carolina, 1983)

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