Dr Crotch's Miscellany

Extracts about JB Malchair, from Crotch's Malchair MSS, Bodl. Oxf., MS Mus. d. 32

He was born at Cologne on the Rhine, and was son of a watchmaker, a tradesman that at that time in Germany had to make all the parts of a watch – (I think he told me on another occasion that he was a Chorister) – He came to England – and at London taught music on cheap terms to mechanics. A Frenchman perceived his talents for drawing and introduced him as drawing master to a ladies school. He also got into little Concerts at public houses.


When Mr Malchair became dim sighted (the fore-runner, as he perceived, of blindness,) he continued various methods of amusing himself without using his eyes – as repeating Poetry – walking a certain number of times round the room – and [playing] on the Violin National Airs wh he had learnt by memory – and thus he parceled out his time so completely that [when] he was unwell he never found solitude an inconvenience, and the call of a friend rather disturbed than obliged him.


He had 2 violins – one a fine Cremona on wch he used to lead [which was] broken by an Orange thrown at the Orchestra during a tumult of young men about ye year 1792 after wch he never lead - it was mended. The other remained unused for sometime with the 4th string broken. And having read in Ant[on]y Wood that he first played on a Violin of 3 strings [^ tuned in 4ths] it suggested to him the idea of making this use of his neglected Violin.


His nephew Mr G Jenner presented me with all the views his Uncle took on the 3 tours [of Wales] - ! an invaluable present - Yet Malchair would all call his drawings and music mere rubbish


About this time [1797] I became more intimately acquainted with Malchair and he paid me a daily visit at 4 o'clock staying till 10 mins before 5 when I was obliged to go to the Ch. Ch. Players - He brought a music book under his arm for me to play to him and sometimes brought a new tune for me to write down as his eyes became too dim to see even his large notes any longer - he continued these daily visits till breaking his shin against a wheelbarrow in Trinity Court where he used to take a few turns, he never again ventured out - after confining himself at the house he had 2 falls down stairs but they did not materially injure him - his strength wasted very gradually - I used to call on him every Sunday after morning Sermon -


When I played this to Malchair he laughed and said "Old Melancholy - dismal indeed - a perfect hanging tune."


When I first played him this he forgot it was his own and thinking it was an Irish tune he praised and when I told him the name he remembered having composed it himself.



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