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Haydn And The Ship Captain

When the immortal composer Haydn was on his visit to England, in 1794,

his chamber-door was opened one morning by the captain of an East

Indiaman, who said, "You are Mr. Haydn?" "Yes." "Can you make me a

'March,' to enliven my crew? You shall have thirty guineas; but I must

have it to-day, as to-morrow I sail for Calcutta." Haydn agreed, the

sailor quitted him, the composer opened his piano, and in a few minutes

the ma
ch was written. He appears, however, to have had a delicacy rare

among the musical birds of passage and of prey who come to feed on the

unwieldy wealth of England. Conceiving that the receipt of a sum so

large as thirty guineas for a labour so slight, would be a species of

plunder, he came home early in the evening, and composed other two

marches, in order to allow the liberal sea captain his choice, or make

him take all the three. Early next morning, the purchaser came back.

"Where is my march?" "Here it is." "Try it on the piano." Haydn played

it over. The captain counted down the thirty guineas on the piano, took

up the march, and went down stairs. Haydn ran after him, calling, "I

have made other two marches, both better; come up and hear them, and

take your choice." "I am content with the one I have," returned the

captain, without stopping. "I will make you a present of them," cried

the composer. The captain only ran down the more rapidly, and left Haydn

on the stairs. Haydn, opposing obstinacy to obstinacy, determined to

overcome this odd self-denial. He went at once to the Exchange, found

out the name of the ship, made his marches into a roll, and sent them,

with a polite note, to the captain on board. He was surprised at

receiving, not long after, his envelope unopened, from the captain, who

had guessed it to be Haydn's; and the composer tore the whole packet

into pieces upon the spot. The narrator of this incident adds the

remark, that "though the anecdote is of no great elevation, it expresses

peculiarity of character; and certainly neither the composer nor the

captain could have been easily classed among the common or the vulgar of


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