The Harmonious Blacksmith : Handel called it ‘Air and Variations’, but by Charles Dickens’s day everyone knew it as ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’.
The Harmonious Blacksmith

‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’ wasn’t the name given to this piece by Handel; so how did it get it?

‘THE Harmonious Blacksmith’ is the popular name for the last movement of Handel’s Suite No. 5 in E major (HWV 430) for harpsichord.

Handel did not give this name to his composition himself, though it is not clear exactly how it came about.

In his Reminiscences of Handel (1836), Richard Clark spread the tale that Handel had overheard the tune during a visit to a local smithy, in Whitchurch, but Handel had already written the piece by then.

After reading that, a music publisher in Bath, named William Lintern, claimed that he had christened the movement so himself, as he had been a blacksmith’s apprentice before turning to music.

Whatever the origins of the name, it stuck; and in Great Expectations (1861) by Charles Dickens, Herbert Pocket gives Pip the nickname ‘Handel’, because “We are so harmonious - and you have been a blacksmith”.

‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’

Below is the Air and Variations from Handel’s Keyboard Suite in E Major, played by Ragna Schirmer.

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Picture: © Jorge Royan, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 3.0. View original
A smith hammering away - harmoniously, no doubt - on his anvil.
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Music by George Frideric Handel
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