The John Marsh Journals, Vol. 1

The Life and Times of a Gentleman Composer (1752-1828)

Edited, introduced and annotated by Brian Robins

Pendragon Press, Stuyvesant, NJ 

ISBN: 0-945193-94-7

xiv + 798pp

First Published: 1998


$84 US; £61.50 UK


UK & European buyers - click here!




The extensive journals of the English gentleman composer John Marsh, which cover the period 1752-1828, represent one of the most important musical and social documents of the period to have hitherto remained unpublished.  Drawing on the recently discovered original (now in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California), the selection covers the first fifty years of Marsh’s life, a period of intense musical activity in the southern cathedral cities of Salisbury, Canterbury and Chichester.  But Marsh was far more than a provincial composer and music director; the journals also cast much valuable light on musical life in London – his account of the great Handel Commemoration of 1784 is without parallel for its colourful evocation of the huge event.  A lively interest in a wide range of topics gives the journals a scope rare in the writings of a musician and the volume will be of indispensable value not only to the musical but also the social historian.  The unfailingly vital and often witty writing also ensures considerable appeal to the more general reader with an interest in an eventful period of English history.

The volume has been comprehensively annotated and includes illustrations and contemporary maps. 

A revised and corrected second edition with an expanded index became available in June 2011.

A second volume, covering the period from June 1802 to Marsh's death in 1828 plus a complete listing of Marsh’s compositions and writings will be published by Pendragon Press on 20 June 2013.

Extracts from reviews of The John Marsh Journals:

Brian Robins’ volume dealing with the years 1752-1801 is a superb production. He has been working on the Marsh Journals for at least two decades, and the result is a formidable piece of work. The book is beautifully produced, and is furnished with 21 plates. … It is a splendid piece of scholarship, as well as a thoroughly entertaining and, at times, very amusing read. I have to say I could hardly put it down. – Nicholas Plumley, Organists’ Review.

Marsh’s journals run to over 6000 pages in 37 volumes… Brian Robins has laboured as a musical Hercules in reducing this material to a (barely) manageable monograph. … I would urge every library that can afford it to purchase this volume. Brian Robins has emulated all the best qualities of his subject in editing these journals for publication. In so doing he has rescued a worthy musician from obscurity and given us a most edifying, entertaining and enjoyable book. – Richard Turbet, Brio.

From time to time a major new source comes to light with the potential to transform radically our understanding of the life and times of the author. … It is no exaggeration to claim such significance for the journals of John Marsh… Robins’s editorial hand is commendably light, furnishing the text with useful and informative footnotes where necessary, and allowing Marsh to speak for himself without too much editorial interference. … the musical community have a great deal to thank Brian Robins for in preparing this edition. – Rachel Cowgill, Early Music..

… the Marsh journals are collectively one of the most important sources of information we have about English musical life, to be ranked with Samuel Pepy’s diary, Charles Burney’s History of Music or Bernard Shaw’s music criticism. … I am glad to report that Brian Robins has performed his editorial task well. There is a clear statement of editorial method and generally extremely helpful editorial notes. … no one interested in 18th-century music can afford to be without it. – Peter Holman, Goldberg Early Music Magazine.

This volume is, in every sense of the word, a monumental achievement for which anyone interested in English social life and/or music during the second half of the eighteenth century must be profoundly grateful. We are very glad to have it, occasional warts and all. – H. Diack Johnstone, Journal of the Royal Musical Association.    

This meticulously scholarly volume (the footnotes alone comprise a small musical encyclopaedia) … must be one of the fullest records in print of daily life in late 18th-century England. – Nicholas Spice, The London Review of Books.

… the text is fully annotated with copious footnotes: the research that has obviously gone into these is phenomenal. - Ian Graham-Jones, Early Music Review.