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Anne Ford Thicknesse (1) : A young English girl in Dr Johnson’s London struggles to share her gift for music.
Anne Ford Thicknesse
Part one

Based partly on ‘The Dictionary of National Biography’.

The story of Anne Ford (1737-1824) is an inspirational tale of determination, which shows two contrasting sides to Georgian England, and reminds us once again that Britain made rapid social progress without the violence seen on the near Continent.

ANNE Ford was a pretty, gifted musician who sang and played both the English guitar and the viola da gamba (not then considered a very ladylike instrument) to the delight of London’s fashionable society, including Thomas Arne, gathered in her father Charles’s home on Sundays.

Anne dreamt of a professional career, but Charles thought that unseemly, and once engaged a magistrate to march his daughter home from a friend’s house, fearing a plot to escape for a life on the stage; but he was unable to stop her giving five public subscription concerts, beginning on March 18th, 1760, performing music by Handel and various Italian composers, supported by such eminent London figures as the virtuoso violinist Thomas Pinto.

Soon Anne was being showered with praise, though one eager suitor, William Villiers, Earl of Jersey, shared her father’s opinion of public performances, and begged his fashionable friends not to subscribe. Happily, they did not listen, which by a strange tissue of events may have saved Anne’s life.

Based partly on ‘The Dictionary of National Biography’.

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Picture: By Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0. View original
Anne Ford, later Mrs Philip Thicknesse, painted by her friend Thomas Gainsborough. Anne is holding an English guitar, an instrument of ten strings which enjoyed a vogue throughout northern Europe from 1750 to 1850. In the background is a viola da gamba, a forerunner of the ’cello.

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