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Charles Coote: Devonshire & Dickens

25th March 2024.

An interesting archive of letters and ephemera relating to the composer and bandmaster Charles Coote (1809-1880), personal pianist to William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, is coming up in the Books, Maps & Manuscripts Sale at Tennants Auctioneers on 10th April.

Coote was associated with Chatsworth for over 30 years, leading the Duke’s private orchestra. Throughout his career he wrote or arranged almost 200 pieces of music, including his ‘Chatsworth Quadrilles’ in 1843 in celebration of a visit to the great house by Queen Victoria and Price Albert.

On numerous occasions Coote was ‘loaned’ to Charles Dickens, to write music and lead the band for various stage productions around the country. The Duke and Dickens were acquainted, Dickens having arranged an amateur performance at the Duke’s London home, Devonshire House, of the comedy Not so Bad as we Seem by his friend Edward Bulwer Lytton. Starring Dickens himself and performed in front of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, it was put on to raise funds for an organisation that would provide financial support to authors. Coote wrote the music for the production and would lead the band when it went on to tour the country. A letter in the Chatsworth archive written by Dickens to the Duke describes just how delighted he was with Coote, and his ability to bring the orchestra together.

The archive now offered for sale includes such items as an autographed letter from Charles Dickens, an autographed letter from Dickens’ sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth written from Tavistock House, five envelopes signed by Dickens, letters from the Duke of Devonshire and Edward Bulwer Lytton, theatrical posters for Not so Bad as we Seem, the visiting card of William Harwood, Executioner, a musical score and more. It is offered with an estimate of £600-1,000 (plus buyer’s premium).

The collection is being sold by descendants of the composer.


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