Convivial Connoisseurship: Amateurs and Ancient Music in Eighteenth-Century London Clubs

Roya Stuart-Rees

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


In his History of Music, the lawyer and amateur musician Sir John Hawkins (1719-1789) lauded the ingenuity of the noblemen and gentlemen of the Catch Club in ‘extending the narrow limits of the old harmony’ through the incentive of a composition competition. This thesis explores the roles of amateur musicians in London’s music clubs in the eighteenth century, focusing on those specialising in ‘ancient music’, a term which encompassed sixteenth-century vocal polyphony and contemporary works in learned contrapuntal styles. Concentrating on five clubs linked to the ancient music movement – the Academy of Ancient Music, Madrigal Society, Catch Club, Glee Club, and Concerts of Antient Music – I argue that amateurs were central to the shaping of taste and the rediscovery of ancient music. Chapter Two outlines the social and educational benefits of club membership, drawing on institutional records to demonstrate how club-specific rituals established and legitimised amateurs as the arbiters of taste. Using previously unscrutinised sale catalogues, Chapter Three uncovers the habits and motivations of collectors including Thomas Bever, William Gostling and Edmund Thomas Warren. Chapter Four explores the role of scribal and printed publishing practices in the dissemination and preservation of ancient music, investigating manuscript copies and printed editions of such music created and edited by Henry Hargrave, Warren, William Thomson, Benjamin Goodison and Henry Needler. Chapter Five demonstrates the influence of the clubs on canon formation and knowledge building, including the practical application of musical knowledge as manifest in historical writing (Sir John Hawkins) and composition in older styles (Francis Hutcheson and the Earl of Mornington). My research considers links to the wider movement of antiquarianism, the gentlemanly pursuit of the collection of curiosities, and the rise of urban sociability and club culture, offering a broad socio-historical perspective on the origins, activities and impact of London’s ancient music clubs.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Rose, Stephen, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Dec 2022
Publication statusUnpublished - 2022


  • Amateur
  • Music
  • Ancient Music
  • Connoisseur
  • Antiquarianism
  • Gentlemen
  • Antiquarian
  • Sociability
  • Collecting
  • History
  • Clubs and Societies
  • Music Publishing
  • Music Education
  • London
  • Eighteenth-Century
  • Catch Club
  • Glee Club
  • Academy of Ancient Music
  • Concert of Antient Music
  • Madrigal Society
  • Sir John Hawkins
  • Dr Thomas Bever
  • Henry Needler
  • Edmun Thomas Warren Horne
  • Georgian England
  • Cultural Capital
  • Social History
  • Musical Institutions
  • Music Libraries
  • Music Collections
  • Henry Hargrave
  • Benjamin Goodison
  • William Thomson
  • William Gostling
  • Edmund Thomas Warren
  • Catches and Glees
  • Francis Hutcheson
  • Earl of Mornington
  • Gentleman's Clubs
  • Composition
  • Stile antico
  • Polyphony
  • Sacred Music

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