Handel’s maggots – obsessions

On 19th September 1738, Jennens wrote to a friend

“Mr.Handel’s head is more full of maggots than ever”

Maggot 1: His newly discovered carillon – “with this Cyclopean instrument he designs to made poor Saul stark mad.

Maggot 2: A bespoke organ, costing £500, designed so that he could direct the orchestra from it, ‘all the time with his back to the audience!’ (Not considered a bad idea now; but the cost in current money would be about £77,000). Jennens suggested he was ‘overstocked with money’ – a bit rich considering the cost of his own Leicestershire home.

Maggot 3: ‘A Hallelujah he has trumped up at the end of his oratorio since I went into the country’. Handel had refused to set the Hallelujah Jennens had put at the end of the opening scene, and thought Jennens’ ending not sufficiently grand. Fortunately for us Handel carried out precisely Jennens intentions regarding Hallelujahs.

Jennings concludes: “but it grows late and I must defer the rest till I write next, by which time, I doubt not, more new ones will breed in his brain.”

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Gopsall Hall, Leicestershire

Charles Jennens converted the hall into a magnificant Georgian mansion, which cost him more than £100,000 (about £15,000,000 in today’s money).

Gopsall Hall

The house still stood in the 20th century, indeed the estate had a motor-racing circuit in the 1920s and ’30s. But by 1952 it was mostly demolished, and the current Gopsall Hall Farm stands on its site – not far from Twycross Zoo.

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