Savage Boundaries: Reading Samuel Arnold's Score
Robert Hoskins, Massey University
essay concentrates on the music for the original pantomime. Most of the
vocal items mentioned (but only some of the instrumental) are performed
in the video clips linked to melodrama
version of Obi, included with this Praxis volume.
"Rule Britannia" ends his patriotic masque Alfred (1740); it achieved
instant popular success. By 1750 the established population of 13 British
colonies was 236,000 blacks, almost all of them slaves, and 934,000 whites.
representationsincluding "harem" operas by Thomas Arne (The Sultan,
1759) and Charles Dibdin (The Seraglio, 1776), "Captain Cook" pantomimes
by Thomas Linley (Robinson Crusoe, 1781) and William Shield (Omai,
1785), and Dibdin's The Padlock (1768) which includes trauma songs
sung by Mungo, a black servant (sung by the composer in blackface)all
partly influenced Obi. We know that Arnold had Linley's score of
Robinson Crusoe in mind because of an actual borrowing (Sheridan
and Linley's adaptation encodes Crusoe as Cook) and clearly Shield and
John O'Keeffe's Omai, or A Trip round the World, which gave currency
to the idea of Cook's deification, is another crucial model. In Obi,
Arnold and Fawcett translate Cook's embodiment of peace and civilization
to Orford; and the familiar topos of the European confronting the native
on the Pacific beach relocates to Jack's mountainous hideout. See Fig.2,
also ns. 5 and 8.
established his reputation at Covent Garden with The Maid of the Mill
(1765) but his greatest successes belong to his twenty-five years (from
1777) as composer for the Little Theater in the Haymarket. Arnold was
also a noted conductor, organist and editor of Handel's works.
voyages drew attention to the existence of native peoples and for Londoners
in 1777 Cawwawkee had a living prototype in Omai, the first (and much
fêted) Polynesian to visit England (from 1774 to 1776). See also ns. 2
Libretto was tapped from Richard Steele's The Spectator, Tuesday
13 March 1711, via Richard Ligon's History of the Island of Barbados
(1673); also Weddell's Incle and Yarico: A Tragedy of Three Acts
(1742). Colman's model for Yarico may have been Phillis Wheatley (1753-84)
who was taken from Africa as a child and brought across the Atlantic to
British North America; she was in London in 1773 to publish a volume of
poems. In her writings Wheatley asks how was it that the empire of the
free became an empire of slaves.
freely adapts the slow movement of K575 into the sequence of measures
1-5, 19-29, 40-42, and 9-19, this constituting somewhat less than two-thirds
of the original. Mozart's chamber music was little known in London at
this time and Arnold's adaption may well have been the first public performance
of this work in England (Mozart's score had been imported by Longman &
Broderip after 1791).
cave seems to have been partly inspired by the "banditti" paintings of
Salvator Rosa and also Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg's scene design
"Inside a Jourt" (snow hut, Kamchatka) for Omai (extant maquette
in Victoria & Albert Museum, London, E.157-1937). Jack in his tunic is
arguably a variant of Sir Joshua Reynolds's famous painting of Omai (c.1775)
as Nature-prophet draped in flowing robes and standing in a Tahitian Eden.
See also ns. 2 and 5.
this sense the pantomime predicts British abolition of the slave trade
passed by act of Parliament in 1807.