Hudleston Music

The case of the mistaken name: P. Verini


The Hudleston collection contains several works by P. Verini, whom we know was an acquaintance of Fernando Sor during Sor's years in London, and who dedicated his First Rudiments for the Spanish Guitar to Sor. But who was this Verini? The only writers I know who mention him are Philip Bone, in The Guitar and Mandolin, Wilfred Appleby, in his article 'Italian Friend of Fernando Sor', published in L'Arte Chitarristica, 1948, and Stuart Button, in his thesis The Guitar in England 1800-1924. I have not been able to access Appleby's article about Verini, but I suspect that most of the information about Verini in Button's thesis was taken from it. (If anyone can supply a copy of Appleby's article, I would be very grateful.) All three writers call Verini 'Filippo', using the Italian form of his name. This has been followed in nearly every reference to the man I have seen, despite the fact that every piece of music published under his name uses the initial 'P.', and never 'F.'. I cannot say if it was Bone or Appleby who started this trend, but I can say that it is incorrect. With apologies to my Italian colleagues, Verini's name was not 'Filippo', and I question the assumption that he was Italian.

According to Verini's death certificate, which I found in 2005, Verini's full name was Phillipe Raphael Jean Baptiste Verini – a far cry from 'Filippo'. Verini, a musician, 63 years old, died in London on 25 January 1845, (not in 1846 or later as previous writers have it), at 22 Welbeck Street, London. The cause of death was a fever, lasting ten days, "induced by injury to the foot", suggesting an infection of some kind. If the age given at the time of his death is correct, we can conclude that Verini was born in 1781, or during the first three weeks of 1782 (not in 1783 as previous writers have it).

Button states that Verini was in London from about 1809, and although I have not yet found any supporting evidence for this, he was certainly in London by 6 September 1813, when his son Peter was born there (according to the International Genealogical Index). Peter, and his younger sister Mary Magdalina, born on 31 August 1816, were baptized at Saint Marylebone Church, London, on 16 February 1817. Verini and his wife Sarah had four more children: Georgiana, Philip, George Francis, and Augustine, born between 1824 and 1829 (according to the 1841 London census). Verini's wife Sarah was English – she was born in Somerset about 1785, and died in London in March 1862 – so it is very likely that Verini was married in London as well, probably in Saint Marylebone Church. An examination of the church records should confirm this.

I mention all of Verini's children not only as evidence of his presence in London during the years of their births, but also to point out that each of them had English names – George, not Giorgio, Peter, not Pietro, etc. – although we will continue to encounter the strange persistence of using Italian names. It is also worth mentioning that the full name of Verini's son Philip was Philip Raphael John Baptist – an anglicized version of Verini's own name. So this name was important enough to Verini père to preserve it, and was not some eccentric caprice on the part of his own parents. Besides, Verini had the opportunity, when he came to England, to either anglicize his names, or to use the Italian versions. He did neither, indicating a certain pride in his French names.

It is this name Phillipe Raphael Jean Baptiste which makes me question the assumption that Verini was born in Italy. It seems quite unlikely to me that an Italian family would bestow such a collection of French names upon their son. One possible explanation is that Verini's mother was French. But if she had married into an Italian family and was living in Italy at the time of her son's birth, it is much more likely that Verini would have been called 'Fillipo'. Another explanation is that Verini's mother was indeed French, but that Verini was born in France – in which case he would have certainly been called 'Phillipe'. This, however, would suggest that Verini was a French speaker, and that does not appear to be the case. Most of Verini's surviving music consists of works for voice and guitar, many of them arrangements of Italian songs. We could assume that he was fluent in both French and Italian, and chose to make himself known as an Italian speaker while in England, given the English antipathy towards the French and their revolution at that time. But if he was concerned about such things, why didn't he anglicize his name, or use the Italian version of it?

A third, and very promising, possibility – which takes into account Verini's fluency in Italian, and his French names – is that he was born in the one place where to this day the combination of French forenames and Italian surnames is widespread: Corsica.

If he was Corsican, it might also help to explain why Verini settled in England in the early years of the 19th century. Corsica was under the rule of Genoa until 1755, when it declared its independence. Genoa never acknowledged that independence, granting Corsica to France in 1768 as part of the Treaty of Versailles. The leader of the Corsican independence forces in 1755, and author of the Corsican constitution, Pascal Paoli, was exiled in England after the Corsican independence movement was defeated by the French in 1769. Later, Paoli marked his return to Corsica by the creation of an Anglo-Corsican kingdom which lasted only two years (1794-1796), again crushed by the French. Paradoxically, Paoli was considered a hero in revolutionary France, although he became disillusioned by the excesses of the 'Reign of Terror' and retired to London again in 1796. England was sympathetic to the Corsican cause, and may have provided a safe haven for any Corsicans wishing to escape French rule, or later, inscription into the Napoleonic armies. Indeed, Marco Bazzotti had previously written in The Guitar in Italy in the Nineteenth Century that “during the Napoleonic era [Verini] was a war prisoner and as such was taken to Spain for a short period.” (No source was given for for this information. If anyone knows the source, please let me know.) Verini could of course have been in one of the armies opposing Napoleon's invasion of Italy, but given his French names, and the connection between England and Corsica, I believe the possibility that he was Corsican is more likely, and worth exploring.

Obviously further research is necessary to determine if any of these theories is correct, but I think there is enough evidence for us to seriously question the assumption that Verini was Italian.

Incidentally, one of Verini's guitar pupils is known to have been the wife of Charles Dickens, and there is a letter to Verini from Dickens, in which Dickens addresses him as 'Philip'. According to Appleby, Verini also knew the Irish writer Thomas Moore, but no evidence has been found yet to support this.

Verini had a collection of guitar music, and according to Button, at the time of Verini's death this collection passed to Verini's son who was then living in Saltburn. Button calls the son 'Giorgio'. As a matter of fact, George Verini was 21 years old at the time of his father's death, and probably still living with his family in Welbeck Street in London, if he was anywhere in England, and as we will see later, he may not have been in England for some years afterwards. George appears on the 1881 census returns, as the proprietor of the Letland Hotel, Marske Road, Marske In Guisborough, Yorkshire. (He appears to have spent the rest of his life there, with his wife Eliza, and he died there in 1906.) Regarding Button's statement that 'Giorgio' lived in Saltburn: Saltburn is in Scotland, but Saltburn-by-Sea is in Yorkshire, not far from Guisborough. The lack of precision concerning such details does not make me overly confident about the rest of the information about Verini which has come to us through Button and Appleby.

Button states that 'Giorgio' sold his father's collection of music to a neighbour, and Appleby later bought it, along with Verini's guitar, from that person. The guitar, made by Louis Panormo around 1840, the label of which is signed by Verini, is now in the Edinburgh University Collection of Musical Instruments. It was given to the university in 1985 by Appleby. So it seems certain that Appleby did acquire Verini's collection as Button states. However, it wasn't quite that simple. When Appleby acquired Verini's collection, it was incomplete, because someone had got to George before him: J. A. Hudleston.

In Hudleston's collection there are several pieces which bear Hudleston's inscription: 'JA Hudleston from Signor G Verini, 4th February 1856'. (Notice again the use of the Italian 'Signor'.) The pieces are the following:

Fantasie by Eulenstein
Rondongino brillante by Giuliani
Favorite Romance on a Scotch Air by Huerta
Andante and Allegretto by Angiolina Huerta (née Panormo) inscribed to Verini
Variazioni by Moretti
Sor's opp. 11, 37, 42
Verini's own “So che un sogno e la speranza”

This shows several things: first, George definitely had the music by 1856, when he was 31 years old, and he was parting with some of it long before Appleby acquired whatever remained of the collection. Hudleston returned to England in 1856, and originally, I thought that he must have contacted George Verini almost immediately after arriving. But, as with all things related to Hudleston, it isn't so straightforward, and checking the exact dates of Hudleston's movements revealed that this is not what happened.

Hudleston was still in India in February 1856, not leaving there until March of that year. So he received the music from George Verini before he left Madras. How could this be? I have two theories.

First, it is possible that George Verini sent the music to Hudleston in India; after all, Hudleston had been importing music for more than 30 years and obtaining music from England was not new to him. If we accept this scenario, then it shows that Hudleston and George Verini must have been acquainted, and Hudleston must have known George had his father's music. Hudleston may have asked George for some of it, or George may have given it to him as a gift, or sold it to him. The connection between the two men is what intrigues me, because it shows once again how involved Hudleston was in the guitar scene in England, despite his great physical distance from it. The absence of any Hudleston or any Verini correspondence makes it impossible to prove or disprove this theory.

My second theory is even more interesting.

As far as I can see, George Verini does not appear on the 1851, 1861, or 1871 census returns for England. Other members of the family do appear, in various locations. But George does not appear until the 1881 census, and then, as the proprietor of the Letland Hotel in Yorkshire, as I mentioned earlier. So where was George between 1851 and 1881?

Curiously, there is a rather incidental reference to a George Verini in the records of the Bengal Army Clothing Agency, 1862-1863, which I have only recently found. Although I have not yet been able to investigate this further, I cannot help but wonder if this George Verini of the Bengal Army is the same man as our George, Phillipe Verini's son. If he was, then it is possible that George and Hudleston met in India, and not in England, and it was in India that the music was acquired by Hudleston. As far-fetched as this seems, the fact that George does not appear on the census records for such a long period makes it more believable. The British Army in India was made up primarily of British subjects and Indians, so the chance that there was another George Verini, from outside Britain or India, who joined the British army, is extremely unlikely. In addition, anyone in England with the name Verini during this period was a descendant of Phillipe, so it is impossible that there was another George Verini in the United Kingdom at that time. Furthermore, George's age at the time in question fits very neatly: he could have joined the army after his father's death in 1845, when he was 20, and would have shipped out to India within a year or two of joining. Therefore he would not have been in England at the time of the 1851 census. And although Bengal is far north of Madras, where Hudleston was living, Hudleston had retired from his civil service post in early 1855, and could have travelled north to meet George Verini during the following year. If this was the case, it also means that George took his father's music with him to India – making the Verini Collection, now part of the Appleby Collection, the second major collection of 19th century guitar music to have travelled from England to India and back.

This seems far too extraordinary to believe, but in the words of Sherlock Holmes, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Further research on my part will hopefully reveal that truth.

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