Thomas Linley the younger

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Thomas Linley, by Thomas Gainsborough (c. 1771)

Thomas (Tom) Linley the younger (7 May 1756 – 5 August 1778) was the eldest son of the composer Thomas Linley the elder and his wife Mary Johnson. He was one of the most precocious composers and performers that have been known in England, and became known as the "English Mozart".[1]

Early life[edit]

Linley's abilities were apparent from a young age. He played a concerto at a concert in Bristol on 29 July 1763, at the age of 7, and from 1763 to 1768 was apprenticed to Dr. William Boyce, the Master of the King's Musick. In 1767 he appeared with his sister Elizabeth Ann Linley in a London production of The Fairy Favour at Covent Garden Opera House, singing, dancing a hornpipe and playing the violin. Between 1768 and 1771, he journeyed to Italy to study violin and composition with Nardini in Florence. There he met Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in April 1770, and Charles Burney in September of the same year.[1] In reference to Linley, Burney later wrote, "The 'Tommasino', as he is called, and the little Mozart, are talked of all over Italy, as the most promising geniuses of this age."[2] Thomas and Mozart—both aged 14 in 1770—had met and become warm friends in Florence earlier in 1770.[3]


On his return to England he performed in the concerts directed by his father in Bath and at various oratorios at the Drury Lane, of which he was leader between 1773 and 1778.

A significant number of Linley's compositions have been lost, including many in the Drury Lane Fire of 1809. Surviving works attest to his congenial mastery of melody, gift for counterpoint, and musical imagination.[1] Linley composed violin sonatas and concertos as well as choral works, and provided most of the music for his brother-in-law Richard Brinsley Sheridan's opera The Duenna (1775). Among his surviving works are "Let God Arise" a large-scale cantata-anthem for the Three Choirs Festival (1773)[4] an "Ode on the Spirits of Shakespeare", the Lyric Ode (1776), set to a text by his fellow-Bathonian French Laurence, an oratorio entitled The Song of Moses, an afterpiece comic opera (The Cady of Bagdad) and substantial incidental music for Sheridan's 1777 production of "The Tempest". Linley also assisted his father, and their works (cantatas, madrigals, glees, elegies and songs) were published together in two volumes.


Linley was drowned in a boating accident at the age of 22, while staying at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire with his sister Mary. His funeral was held at Edenham Parish Church but Parish records indicate that he was not buried there (local rumour has it that his body was taken to Bath to be interred). Linley's early death was immediately recognised as a tragedy for English music. Mozart later commented on Linley in a conversation that was recorded by the musician Michael Kelly: "[Mozart] said that Linley was a true genius; and he felt that, had he lived, he would have been one of the greatest ornaments of the musical world".[5]


  1. ^ a b c Gwilym Beechey and Linda Troost. "Linley". Retrieved 26 April 2011. Grove Music Online (subscription required)
  2. ^ Burney: An Eighteenth-century Musical Tour in France and Italy, p.184; ed. by P.A. Scholes; Oxford University Press, 1959
  3. ^ Abert, Hermann; Spencer, Stewart (1 January 2007). W. A. Mozart. Yale University Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0300072235.
  4. ^ "Thomas Linley – Music 18". Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  5. ^ [1] Kelly, Michael. Reminiscences of Michael Kelly of the King's Theatre and Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Including a Period of Nearly Half a Century with Original Anecdotes of Many Distinguished Persons, Political, Literary, and Musical, Volume 1. Published: London: Henry Colburn, New Burlington Street (1826). p. 222.

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