Haydn, Burney, England, and The Creation

May 19, 2014
Ray Heigemeir
Portrait of Joseph Haydn by Thomas Hardy (1791)

Die Schoepfung [The Creation]. German and English.
Vienna : [Joseph Haydn], 1800.
Stanford University Libraries, Memorial Library of Music, MLM 497
Link to downloadable images of this work

Letter from Haydn to Burney, September 14, 1799
Stanford University Libraries, Memorial Library of Music, MLM 497a
Link to downloadable images of this work


There are two important items in the Memorial Library of Music related to Haydn's Creation: a letter written by Haydn to his English friend Dr. Charles Burney (1726-1814), who helped Haydn arrange for the initial sale of the English-language edition of the full score; and one of the earliest copies of that score, which bears Haydn’s personal stamp on the title page. Burney is best known for his A General History of Music, (4 vols., 1776-89), a monumental publication that set a new standard for works on music history and historiography.


July 18, 1799,  Haydn --> Burney
Haydn asks Burney if he will solicit subscribers for the score of The Creation.

August 17, 1799,  Burney --> Haydn
Burney is happy to help, but asks if delivery can be postponed until late in the year, because all likely subscribers are away from London until December. Burney also praises Haydn’s patriotic hymn, “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,” and sends along his attempt at an English translation/paraphrase. (The hymn melody is also the theme for variations in the poco adagio movement of the string quartet, op. 76/3; it was later adopted, with different words, as Das Deutschlandlied) 

August 1799,  Burney --> Haydn
Burney sends a partial list of subscribers.

September 2, 1799,  Haydn --> Burney
Haydn states that he can’t delay publication because he had already publicized that scores would be available before the end of the year.

September 14, 1799,  Haydn --> Burney
Memorial Library of Music, MLM 497a
Haydn acknowledges letters crossed in the mail. Haydn thanks Burney for the subscribers list, and says that the scores will be sent as soon as they are printed.

Haydn expresses gratitude for the support of his friend and for the enthusiasm of his English fans. He writes,  “It makes me very happy to be able to show the world how I was, and still am, esteemed in England … I hope that the work will meet with everyone’s satisfaction, particularly when it is performed.”

March 28, 1800 : London premiere of The Creation, Covent Garden.

July 25, 1800,  Burney --> Longman, Clementi & Co. (Haydn’s distributor in London)
Burney thanks the recipient for news that the scores have arrived, at last.

David Rowland’s essay, “Haydn’s music and Clementi’s publishing circle,” details the stresses surrounding the publication history of The Creation in London. In The Land of Opportunity: Joseph Haydn and Britain.


Haydn letter to Burney


Haydn letter to Burney

Letter from Haydn to Burney, September 14, 1799
Stanford University Libraries, Memorial Library of Music, MLM 497a



in H.C. Robbins Landon. The Collected Correspondence and London Notebooks of Joseph Haydn, p. 165 (1959) 

Most esteemed and dearest Sigr Dottore!

I regret extremely, my dear Sir, that you did not receive my letter dated 21st September [sic]/ in which I had said that I could not wait too long with the subscription, as you, my dear Sir, were thinking of doing, in view of the fact that I have promised publicly to issue my Creation towards the end of September, or at the latest in the month of January 1800. Meanwhile I am very happy to be able to include in my list of subscribers all the names which you, my dear Sir, indicated in your kind letter, and to these I shall now add

the name of Sir William Parson, and also the name of the Duke of Leed's son (I regret extremely the death of his amiable father). As soon as the printing of the opus is finished, I shall not fail to send all the copies immediately, and also a few extra ones besides.

It makes me very happy to be able to show to the world how I was, and still am, esteemed in England; I really don't deserve such a fine list of subscribers, but I hope that this work will meet with everyone's satisfaction, particularly when it is performed.

My dear and much-honoured Doctor! I cannot sufficiently express to you how very grateful! am for all your efforts on my behalf. God bless you for them! I shall always remember your good heart, and I only regret that I cannot be there personally to show you my gratitude: I do not find the words; but enough! He who knows YOUR GREAT TALENT also knows YOUR KIND NATURE: happy he who can boast of enjoying your dear friendship ! As for myself, there remains only to say that I am, and shall always remain, with every regard and the highest respect,

my dearest Sigr Dottore,

your most humble and devoted servant,

Giuseppe Haydn [m.p] ria

Vienna, 14th September 1799.


Die Schoepfung (The Creation), German and English. 1800.

Die Schoepfung [The Creation]. German and English.
Vienna : [Joseph Haydn], 1800.
"Imported and sold by Longman, Clementi & Co, N. 26, Cheapside & Tottenham Court Road, London..."—music seller’s label.


Detail showing Haydn's stamp

Haydn's stamp


With thanks to Astrid Smith, Rare Book and Special Collections Digitization Specialist, and the Digital Production Group for providing downloadable images of the complete work and letter to Burney.