Arne, Thomas Augustine

Thomas Augustine Arne (1710-1778) was a renowned English composer of the 18th century. His contributions to British music include iconic songs like "Rule, Britannia!" and "A-Hunting We Will Go." Arne's career spanned several decades, during which he composed a vast repertoire of concertos, sinfonias, sonatas, and operatic entertainments. Despite the loss of many of his works in the 1808 fire at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, Arne's impact on the music scene of his time was significant.

Early Life and Career

Born on March 12, 1710, Arne displayed a natural aptitude for music from an early age. He began his career as a composer and performer at prominent British theaters, such as Drury Lane and Covent Garden. Arne's sister, Susannah Maria Arne, also known as "Mrs. Cibber," was a distinguished contralto and frequently collaborated with him. Together, they showcased his compositions, most notably in his first opera, "Rosamund."

Rise to Prominence

Arne's popularity soared during his tenure at Drury Lane Theatre, where he served as the bandleader. His compositions gained the attention of Frederick, Prince of Wales, who became his patron. At Cliveden, the prince's country estate, Arne premiered the Masque of Alfred, featuring his now-iconic composition, "Rule Britannia!" This patriotic song quickly became synonymous with British national identity.

Legal Battles and Copyright

Arne's talent as a composer was not limited to the stage. He also composed theatrical works and embarked on concert tours. However, his success was not without its challenges. In 1741, Arne filed a complaint in Chancery against London booksellers and music distributors, Henry Roberts and John Johnson. He accused them of unauthorized printing and selling of his theatrical compositions. Although the dispute was resolved amicably, Arne's actions marked one of the earliest instances of a songwriter seeking copyright protection.

Dublin Interlude and Return to London

In 1742, Arne temporarily relocated to Dublin with his wife, Cecilia Young. During his time in Ireland, he worked on various theatrical productions, including the oratorio "The Death of Abel." Upon his return to London in 1744, Arne secured positions as the bandleader at Drury Lane Theatre and the composer at Vauxhall Gardens. However, a dispute with David Garrick, the manager of Drury Lane, prompted Arne and his sister to move to Covent Garden Theatre in 1750.

Personal Life and Divorce

Arne's personal life was not without turmoil. In 1755, he divorced Cecilia, alleging her mental instability. During his time in Dublin, Arne developed a relationship with Charlotte Brent, a former child prodigy and soprano. Brent's talent flourished under Arne's guidance, and she performed lead roles in his operas. However, their relationship eventually ended, and Brent went on to marry Thomas Pinto, a violinist, in 1766.

Masonic Connections

Arne was an active member of the Freemasons and had a strong connection to the fraternity. Like Mozart, he lived in a time when Catholic Church outlawed participation in the Lodges. Arne's involvement with the Freemasons further solidified his ties to the Covent Garden neighborhood, where he resided for many years.

Legacy and Impact

Thomas Augustine Arne left an indelible mark on British music. His compositions, characterized by their catchy melodies and patriotic themes, continue to resonate with audiences. "Rule, Britannia!" remains a beloved anthem, often performed at significant national events. Arne's contributions to the development of English opera and his pioneering efforts in copyright protection paved the way for future generations of composers.


Thomas Augustine Arne's life and music exemplify the creativity and resilience of a renowned composer. From his early successes to his legal battles and personal challenges, Arne's career was marked by both triumphs and setbacks. Nevertheless, his compositions continue to captivate audiences, and his legacy as a key figure in British music endures. As we celebrate his contributions, let us remember the enduring melodies and patriotic spirit he infused into his works.

Violin Compositions of Thomas Augustine Arne | Animato Strings


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