Henry Purcell was the rave musician of his day writing operas, incidental music for the theatre, songs, anthems, chamber music and much more. Like Mozart he was a youthful genius composing from the age of nine and also like Mozart he died young, in his mid thirties. He was brilliantly original, handsome and charismatic. Ecstatic audiences used to shower him with gold at the end of his performances. He was in his early twenties when Lady Bette was in her teens and there was no way she wouldn’t have been a devoted fan.
He was furiously productive and he lived equally hard. His final illness was supposedly brought on by being barred from the house on a cold night by his wife after he had been out on the town. If this was the case he was of a forgiving nature for he still left everything ‘to my loving wife’ in his will which he wrote on his death bed.
‘The God-like man’ is how Dryden described him, in his Ode on the Death of Henry Purcell. ‘The greatest genius we ever had’, was the opinion of another contemporary, Thomas Tudway. According to John Evelyn ‘He was esteemed to be the best composer of any Englishman hitherto.’