8 June 2020

Thomas Linley

A collection of stories: weekly, we share a story around the Founder’s Collection. The month of June is dedicated to stories of children.

Norman Hirst after Thomas Gainsborough, 'Miss Linley and her brother' (detail), 1912. Mezzotint. Founder's Collection

Thomas Linley (1756-1778) was one of the most precocious composers and performers of England, having become known as the ‘English Mozart’. Linley and Mozart were contemporaries and were exactly the same age, which contributed to the beginning of a friendship between the two when they were teenagers.

Thomas’ father, with whom he shared his name, was also a composer and musician, having established himself in Bath, in the United Kingdom, at a very young age. He was the tutor of his eight children and taught music to prominent figures, like tenor Charles Dignum, actress and singer Anna Maria Crouch and writer Frances Sheridan.

Thomas Linley (the younger) began to show a great gift for music from an early age. Apprentice to William Boyce, Master of the King’s Musick, he played in several concert halls in the country before moving to Florence, where he studied violin and composition.

On his return to England, he played in concerts directed by his father in various oratorios at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in London. Many of his compositions ended up being lost to a fire in this theatre, but those which survived attest to his talent.

Linley tragically lost his life at just 22 years old in a boating accident. His death was recognised as a great loss for English music.

The musician appears at the age of about twelve, accompanied by his sister Elizabeth, in a print belonging to the Founder’s Collection. This work was made by Norman Hirst after a painting by Thomas Gainsborough, who painted the siblings more than once over the years, also portraying his father and his sister Mary. The original painting is part of the American collection of the Clark Institute of Art, in Massachusetts.


A Collection of Stories

A collection of stories: weekly, we share a story around the Founder’s Collection. The month of June is dedicated to stories of children.

Other stories