Christopher Simpson, a younger contemporary of Hume's

Of your charity, spare a prayer for the soul of one Captain Tobias Hume, a supposed Scotsman, a composer and champion of the viol—and sometime snail-eater.  The 363rd anniversary of his death falls one week from today.

I have known and admired his work for some time, having bought a very fine (bargain-price) 2 CD set of his Captaine Humes Poeticall Musicke several years ago.  This week BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the Week feature is music from the Court of James VI & I, and Hume was featured in Monday’s and last night’s episodes.  It appears, from the biog I heard there and have since followed up, that the poor old soldier fell rather on hard times towards the end of his career, and I was particularly struck by this detail in the following petition:

I have not one penny to helpe me at this time to buy me bread, so that I am like to be starved for want of meat and drinke, and did walke into the fields very lately to gather Snailes in the nettles, and brought a bagge of them home to eat, and doe now feed on them for want of other meate.

from The True Petition of Colonel Hume, as it was presented to the Lords assembled in the High Court of Parliament (1642)

Having taken careful note of this last night, I was somewhat taken aback this morning when I walked into the stately camera d’audienza of the Palazzo Ben’Ambrosiano (er, my sitting room) to find fine silver trails elegantly tracing patterns all over the carpet: clearly the work of a snail or slug who had escaped from the bag of logs I had brought in last night.  I immediately sent up a quick petition for the soul of poor, talented, gallant Tobias Hume, and ask you to do the same.

Advertisements