Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gibby’s talent for music and his friend Ben

Benjamin Waterhouse by Gilbert Stuart 1775

IN the last entry Gibby was described as being better known in his youth as a superbly talented organist. He also composed music. A very close friend of his early days, Benjamin Waterhouse, later physician and professor at Harvard Medical School, described a get-together: “he attempted to enrapture me, by a newly studied classical composition. I exerted all the kind attention I could muster up for the occasion, until his sharp eye detected by my physiognomy, that I did not much relish it. He coloured, sprang up in a rage, and striding back and forth the floor, vociferated, ‘you have no more taste for music than a jack-ass! and it is all owing to your stupid quaker education.’ To which I replied, ‘tis very likely, Gibby, and that education has led me to relish silence more than all the passionate noise uttered from instrumental or vocal organs.’ Stuart’s reply to this, with a laugh, was, ‘a good hit, Ben!—but really I wish you had more taste for music.’ ‘I wish so too, Stuart,’ said his friend,’but I am determined not to admire more in a picture than what I acutally see within its frame; nor affect raptures for music I do not feel.’ "

Waterhouse left for England early 1775 to study medicine. The revolutionary war negatively impacting the business of portraiture, Stuart left himself for London, where he arrived with few funds in November of the same year. Waterhouse had already gone to Edinburgh to further his studies thus was not in a position to help out. Stuart took cheap lodgings, and found a position as church organist.

Dr. Waterhouse observed that “Stuart’s acknowledged advancement in the theory and practice of music was a fresh evidence of his vigorous intellect and various talents, which constitutes genius. He certainly had that peculiar structure of the brain or mind which gives an aptitude to excel in every thing to which he chose to direct his strong faculties.” p 168-170 History of the Rise and Progress of The Arts of Design in the United States (listed on the right.)

Dr. Waterhouse is also well known for being the first doctor to test the smallpox vaccine in the United States.

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