J. A. Hudleston (1799-1865) A Guitarist in Nineteenth Century India








J. A. Hudleston
A Guitarist in Nineteenth Century India
Seminar given by Michael McCartney at The Queens University of Belfast 12 March 1997.

Discovery of Josiah’s Collection of Classical Guitar Music:
During recent years, through the work of numerous scholars and publishers, the works of the great guitarists of the nineteenth century have become much more familiar to us. The names of guitarist-composers such as Napoleon Coste, Johann Kaspar Mertz, Giulio Regondi, and Marco Aurelio Zani di Ferranti are no longer relegated to obscure footnotes in equally obscure reference books, but are now making frequent appearances on guitarists’ concert programmes and recordings. It was an interest in this particular repertoire that prompted me to come to Europe in 1991 to see what was still collecting dust in old libraries, and what had not yet been republished. My researches began in Brussels and Paris, where I was attempting to catalogue as much of the guitar music as I could find in the Bibliotheque Royale Albert 1 and the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. Before my departure from the U.S., 1 had also written to various libraries in the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, and Scandinavia – as well as to the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. John O’Sullivan, then the librarian at the Academy, had responded in a most tantalizing way, writing that there was “a quantity of 19th century guitar music” in the library. This was too much to pass up, so I went to Dublin in February of 1992 to have a look.

What I found in the Academy was even more than I had expected. Three or four shelves of bound volumes, between sixty and seventy in all, were pointed out as the “guitar collection”. I set about cataloguing it at once, as there was no catalogue to refer to. This is task still not completed, although the catalogue of the prints in the collection is now finished. The size of this collection is rather astonishing: there are 1018 prints (the catalogue contains over 1500 entries once the individual works in anthologies are included), and there are at least 800 works in manuscript. More astonishing than this is that the entire collection was that of one man, Josiah Andrew Hudleston. This makes the Hudleston Collection of Guitar Music in the Royal Irish Academy of Music one of the largest intact collections in the world. It is larger than the Rischel & Birket-Smith collection in the Royal Library in Copenhagen, and it is at least as large as the Krick collection in Washington University. Although it is only one fifth of the size of the Olcott-Bickford collection in California State University, there is another aspect of the Hudleston collection which makes it just as significant. Whereas all of these other collections were assembled by people well after the music they were collecting was composed and published, Hudleston was a contemporary of all of the composers represented in his collection.

Joshia’s Contemporaries:
Hudleston was born in Bray, County Berkshire, England, on 22 February 1799. It may be helpful to remember that he was twenty-nine years younger than Beethoven, and some twenty years younger than the two most renowned guitarists of the early 19th century, the Spanish-born Fernando Sor, and the Italian-born Mauro Giuliani. He was only seven years younger than Rossini, and was born within five years of Bellini, Donizetti, Berlioz and the guitarists Napoleon Coste, Johann Kaspar Mertz, and Marco Aurelio Zani de Ferranti. He was also about twenty years older than Giulio Regondi, one of the last (and arguably the greatest) guitarist of the 19th century. We can see, then, that Hudleston was not looking back with nostalgia on an the guitar’s years of glory, as was the case for most of the other collectors – he was a part of those years, and this makes his collection very significant indeed. What makes it even more remarkable is that Hudleston collected most of his music while he was living in India.

John Hudleston - circa 1800 Honoria Hudleston

Josiah Andrew was the fourth son of John Hudleston, who was then a member of the Honourable East India Company’s Civil Service. John, born in 1749, had lived in India some time before Josiah’s birth, and was a Member of the Madras Council. He was later one of the Honourable Company’s directors (1803-1826), and a Member of Parliament for Bridgwater (1804-1806). It was not uncommon at this time for entire families to be involved in the East India Company, and very often the higher officers would send all of their sons to the Far East. This was the case with the Hudlestons: Josiah’s older brothers John and William were employed as civil servants in India by the Company; his brother Frederick and his younger brother Robert were in the Company’s China Service.Josiah was educated at Haileybury College, Hertfordshire, as all prospective East India Company employees were at that time The college had been founded in 1805, as a response to the founding, by Lord Wellesley, of Fort William College in Calcutta, an extremely expensive undertaking of which the Company Directors did not fully approve. Josiah applied for admission to Haileybury in 1815, was accepted (the fact that his father was a Company Director nearly guaranteed him a place), and began the usual study of classical and general literature, natural philosophy, law, history, mathematics, and political economy. Also part of the curriculum was a rudimentary study of Oriental languages.

Beginning of Music Studies:
According to the only letter of Hudleston’s presently known, he also began his music studies around this time, taking up the guitar in 1816. Hudleston’s choice of instrument in this case is a little unusual. The guitar was not very well known in England before 1815, although there were a few mediocre players and teachers around before that. It would seem, however, that Hudleston may have had a particular inspiration: none other than Fernando Sor. Sor arrived in London in the Spring of 1815, and gave his first benefit concert there on 20 April. An announcement for the concert in the Morning Post stated that “Mr. Sor the most celebrated Performer in Europe on the Spanish Guitar, and who is just arrived in England, will, in the course of the evening, execute a Fantasia on that instrument (being his first public appearance in this country).” Even at that time London was a short journey from Haileybury, or from Maidenhead, where Josiah’s parents were then living, and it is very likely that Hudleston went to hear Sor, if not on this occasion, on one of many others during 1815 and 1816, and was so impressed that he decided to take up the guitar himself. There are several of Sor’s works in Hudleston’s collection, and many of them are autographed in ink by the composer, suggesting the possibility that Hudleston actually met Sor, or perhaps had a lesson from him. Hudleston was certainly acquainted with Sor’s Method for the Spanish Guitar, which he praises in the letter mentioned earlier. However, no copy of the Method is in his collection. It was published in French in 1830, and an English version was published in 1832 – after Hudleston had been living in India for at least 13 years. How was it, then, that he knew of Sor’s pedagogical work, and knew it well enough to supplement it with his own Treatise on Harmonic Sounds? It is very tempting to think that Hudleston may have learned directly from the Master himself. Hudleston’s family certainly could have afforded the best of teachers, and there was no better in England (or perhaps anywhere in Europe) at the time.

Whatever the case may have been, Hudleston would have been happy to have a guitar with him during the voyage to India, and it is possible that he took up the instrument simply to have something to do during the trip. He embarked early in 1817, after the completion of his studies, and arrived in Madras on 25 June of that year, after no less than six months at sea. It appears that there was some music making during journeys to India, as we can see from a pencil and wash illustration by Thomas Ender, Concert on Board the Frigate Austria, from the same year as Hudleston’s voyage. (This picture will soon be available.) It could be argued, however, that Hudleston’s devotion to and enthusiasm for the guitar (as well as his extraordinary proficiency on it, as we shall see) far exceed that of someone who began the study of the instrument only to combat boredom.

Career in the East India Company’s Civil Service:
Hudleston began his career as did all newcomers to the civil service, as a writer at the Madras trading factory. “A writer was nothing more than a clerk, whose days were spent wearily on a high wooden stool scratching interminable entries into a ledger with a quill pen…” (Geoffrey Moorhouse, India Brittanica). Weary and tedious as this may have been for the young Hudleston, the practice of recording everything in writing stayed with him; he dated many of his own compositions and arrangements to the day, and on many of the prints in his collection, we find pencil notes concerning when he played the works, what he thought of them, when he made copies of them, and for whom. Indeed, these marginal scratchings have proven indispensable to the assembly of his biography.

Three years later, in 1820, Hudleston was appointed Second Assistant to the Collector and Magistrate of Tinnevelly, a better promotion than a writer would expect within three years of arriving in India. Whether this promotion had to do with Hudleston’s exceptional administrative talents or to the fact that his father was a Company Director at the time is open to question.

In 1824, Hudleston was appointed the Head Assistant to the Registrar of the Sudder and Foujdarry Adawlut; two years later, he was Acting Deputy Registrar of the Sudder Court. The Sudder Adawlut was the chief court of appeals in Madras, and the Foujdarry was the chief criminal court. Hudleston’s duties in each would once again have had much to do with keeping records.

Another two years later, in 1828, Hudleston was promoted again, this time to Deputy Collector of Madras, a post he held for three years. For five years following that, he was Superintendent of Stationery, and it is perhaps no coincidence that around this time he began composing and arranging music for the guitar. It has been said that it was no surprise that two Company employees in London, namely Charles Lamb and John Stuart Mill, became professional writers; they had all the time and paper they could have needed. Perhaps it was the same for Hudleston!

After serving as the Acting Collector and Deputy Collector of Madras from 1836 until 1843, Hudleston was finally promoted to the position of Chief Collector of Madras, a post of considerable importance, which he held until his retirement from the Civil Service in 1855. The Collector was the chief administrative official of a district, whose duty it is to collect revenue, as the title suggests. However, in areas outside Bengal, the Collector had controlling magisterial powers, and was more of a pro-consul or prefect. How much work the Collector, or any high official in the Company had to do is unclear, but the fact that Hudleston’s activity as a composer and arranger reached its peak during these very years leads one to believe that his professional duties were not very demanding. But to begin with, a Madras Civil Servant was not necessarily as desk-bound as we might expect. “The hours of work in all offices appears to have been between 8 and 11 in the morning and 2 to 4 in the afternoon, and that the principal meal was taken before midday and was followed by a siesta. This will interest those who desire to have a change in hours of work suitable to tropical climate: in hot sun between 11 and 2, employees in services are expected to have rest and not to strain themselves. ” (W. S. Krishnaswami Nayudu, Old Madras). Plenty of time in the evenings, then, for music.

British India, at that time, was not completely isolated culturally, although tastes were always out of date because of the sheer physical delay involved in transport to and from Europe. Musical activity, however, seems to have been much like it was at home in England, albeit on a much smaller scale. There were orchestras and choral societies active in Calcutta, for example, where the works of Handel and Corelli were well-known and often performed. Madras had its own “Society of Amateurs”, which, as far as 1 can tell, was an orchestral group, or at least a large chamber ensemble, led by the violinist T. Rencontre, to whom Hudleston dedicated one of his compositions. Instruments and printed music were also readily available in India – Hudleston had much of his music imported by James Hogg, a bookbinder and publisher in Madras, and Burkin Young, a bookseller in Calcutta. There were other importers in Madras, some of whom dealt in instruments as well as printed music. During the 1840s we find James Eastmure and Franck and Co. advertising frequently in the newspapers, and by 1855, J. Croom, Macbeth’s, and Green and Co. were also active.

Availability and Modification of Guitars in India:
It appears, then, that the demand for European musical instruments and printed music was large enough for these shopkeepers to import printed music, woodwind and brass instruments, and grand and square pianos from makers as renowned as Broadwood or Stodart. By the 1840s, even guitars by Panormo, specially designed for the tropical climate, were available.

Here are two of the adverfisements in the Madras Spectator which mention guitars:

Saturday, August 30, 1845
J.EASTMURE Begs to intimate that he has received by the late arrivals […] an invoice of Panormo guitars, manufactured expressly for this climate […]Saturday, January 25, 1846 J.EASTMURE has for sale Panormo and Wrede Guitars, the former priced 100 Rupees, the latter 50 each […]

So Panormo guitars were not only available in India, and in Madras in particular, during the time that Hudleston lived there and was most active as a composer, but were also specially constructed to withstand the very unkind (for instruments, anyway) Indian climate. And the Panormos were not the only guitar makers exporting to India: instruments by other makers were also available (including Wrede, who does not appear as an instrument maker in The London Trade Directory from 1800 to 1850 and about whom nothing is known). Also notable in the advertisement is the use of the plural and the implication that several instruments had been ordered. One might even conclude from these advertisements that guitars were easily obtainable in the Madras of Hudleston’s day!

Another advertisement in the Madras Spectator from the same period is further evidence of the popularity of guitars in India, and of the practice of purchasing them from London dealers before departing:

Thursday, February 12, 1846
FOR SALE The Properly of an Qfficer leaving for the Mysore division […] A handsome Spanish Guitar, rosewood, with silver frets, and a supply of spare strings – was purchased of KEITH & Co., London, has been but little used, and is in excellent order – Price 80 Rupees. I, For further particulars, apply to Messers. EDWARDS and CO., Bangalore.But what sort of adaptations to normal guitar design would have been necessary? Once again, there are no known surviving guitars from the period which show any structural variations which can be linked to this “climatisation”. However, an examination of the problems posed by the climate lead to several possibilities. The most difficult aspect of the Indian climate was its varying humidity. For half of the year it was hot and dry, for the other half, extremely wet. This would require some kind of stabilisation of the wood used in guitars, to prevent warping (of the soundboard, especially), and to prevent the guitar from quite literally coming apart at the seams. One feature which would keep the wood from moving too much was a two ply laminate, where instead of single pieces of wood for the back and sides, there would be two pieces bonded together. There were guitars made in Europe with such a laminate at this time. Another possibility would be the introduction of metal into the structure of the guitar. Pianos were occasionally built with metal reinforcements around all their edges and joints, primarily as a termite deterrent, and something similar may have been done to guitars. It is also noteworthy that in the 1850s, the Viennese guitar maker Scherzer placed a metal rod inside the body of the guitar to support extra string tension and to compensate for humidity changes. Something like this, too, may have been used for ” Indian” guitars.

Musical Activities in Madras:
In Madras, it does not appear that there was much, if any, professional music making, and the Madras Almanac rarely lists any civilians as musicians by trade. Occasionally simple advertisements appear, looking for musicians, such as this one, again from the Madras Spectator:

Thursday, August 21, 1845
WANTED A French Horn Player Apply to Messrs. GRIFFITHS AND COMPANYIt does appear, however, that there was a number of amateur or semi-professional musicians in the Madras area, many of them connected with the military establishment. Madras newspapers of the time often advertised the sale of band instruments (such as clarinets and bassoons), and vacant positions for players and conductors in the military bands of the Madras infantry. These military “bands” sometimes included a string orchestra, however, so it is possible that orchestral music by major European composers was indeed performed. Another advertisement in the Madras Spectator reveals the rather unexpected combination of a military regiment and a string orchestra:

Monday, 15 January, 1855
GRAND DRAMATIC VOCAL AND INSTRUMENTAL ENTERTAINMENT Under the distinguished patronage of the Right Honorable the Governor Lord HARRIS, MRS. GREIG, The celebrated Vocalist and Dramatic Reader will have the honor of giving the first of her select and Popular Entertainments on the evening of Wednesday 17th January 1855, on which occasion she will be assisted by several Professionals and Amateurs. The String band of Her Majesty’s 43rd Regiment will also perform at intervals during the evening [… ]Mrs. Grieg received a favourable review, so did the “amateur” who accompanied her, and so did the String Band:

Madras Spectator
Friday, January 19, 1855
[…]The Amateur who rendered his assistance at the Piano Forte, performed a Fantasia on several favorite Scotch airs with much success, and displaying considerable execution in the variations introduced As for the Bands of Her Majesty’s 43rd Regiment, it is only necessary to say their musical proficiency was exhibited in its usual large form [ … ]
It is a great regret of mine that this “amateur” at the piano was not named. Hudleston’s collection contains many works for guitar and piano, and this “amateur” might have been the person with whom Hudleston played. Guitar and piano was a common combination at the time; although the idea of using the two instruments together now may seem preposterous because of their vast difference in dynamic range, with instruments from the early nineteenth century, it was very successful.

Mrs. Grieg’s concerts went on for about a month. Her last concert, on February 27, was announced as her “Farewell” concert, indicating that she was not a local. This shows that by 1855 performers were even traveling to India from England and Europe. This, no doubt, began with the opening of the overland route in 1838, although that doesn’t seem to have had as great an effect as the advent of steam ships, which cut the travel time from England to India in half. It would be deceptive, however, to suggest that such large scale public concerts were frequent in Madras at this time, and especially during the early decades of the century. There is very little evidence of concerts such as Mrs. Grieg’s in the Madras press, so it would seem that among the British community in India, domestic chamber music was far more common than anything else.

Hudleston retired from the civil service in May, 1855, but remained in Madras for another year. In March of 1856, he traveled back to England, probably for the first time since his arrival in India 39 years earlier. By October of that year, he was living with his brother Robert in Cheltenham, Gloucester. Cheltenham, known affectionately as “the town of colonels and curries”, was known as a haven for retired East India Company employees, and was often host to many renowned musicians, including Giulio Regondi, who appeared there in November. It seems certain that Hudleston heard Regondi, that the two guitarists met, and that they corresponded for several years afterwards. Around this time, Hudleston also made the acquaintance of Madame Sidney Pratten, who was operating a publishing company dedicated specifically to guitar music. Pratten published a few of Hudleston’s compositions and arrangements during the late 1850s or early 1860s, and Hudleston copied out various selections from his collection for her. After his short residence in Cheltenham, Hudleston continued to travel west, finally settling in Killiney, County Dublin, Ireland, in 1857. He probably met with Regondi again in April of 1861, when Regondi appeared three times at the Antient Concert Roorns in Dublin. It is also likely that Hudleston continued his correspondence with Madame Pratten. He certainly continued composing and arranging music for the guitar until the last year of his life. Hudleston died, from heart disease, in Greenhill, Killiney, on the 19th of August 1865. His burial place has not yet been found.

Arrangements and Compositions:
It was during the 1840s that Hudleston began arranging and composing. Frederic Zscherpel, the organist and music director of St George’s Cathedral, Madras, had encouraged him several years earlier to write a guitar method, a work Hudleston began, but never completed. His opinion was that the existing methods of Carulli, Aguado, and Sor were sufficient, and that “no guitar player should be without [these] works.” In 1841, however, he did write a short treatise on harmonics on the guitar, as he believed “the most eminent guitarists had not gone so deeply into the matter as they might have done”. Hudleston’s notation of harmonics is very clear, consisting of the fret number (with a qualifying / if the harmonic is not exactly on the fret, but a little below it) and string number where the harmonic is to be fingered, making disputes about the note’s sounding octave irrelevant. Hudleston’s original compositions are exclusively for solo guitar, and consist mainly of variations on popular airs, and feature an extensive use of harmonics. His arrangements are perhaps of far greater musical interest.

Hudleston arranged a very large amount of music originally for solo violin and solo piano, as well as choral or orchestral music. For example, his manuscripts contain reductions of a number of works by Handel: selections from the Water Music, and a collection of airs and choruses from the oratorios Judas Maccabeus, Solomon and Messiah (including the famous Hallelujah chorus!). Madras was apparently not immune to the enthusiasm for opera which was so prevalent in Europe during the early nineteenth century, and Hudleston’s arrangements abound in selections from the music of Donizetti, Verdi, and Rossini. He was especially fond of Bellini, and arranged the entire second scene from Act 2 of Norma for solo guitar. In addition to his arrangements for solo guitar, Hudleston also adapted music for clarinet and guitar, a very rare combination, made even more unusual by his choice of the Terz guitar.

Hudleston’s arrangements are notable for their fidelity to the original versions, and for their uncompromising difficulty. Although he was not a professional performer (his high position in the East India Company and in society in general would have precluded public appearances), he must have been a very accomplished player, judging from the technical proficiency required to successfully perform his works. His frequent use of rapid scale passages played with the left hand alone, the appearance of entire passages in harmonics, and the general dexterity demanded of both hands show that his music was intended for virtuosi, and not for amateurs. As such virtuostic music, Hudleston’s works deserve to be considered an important and interesting part of the guitarist’s repertoire. It is hoped that this article will at last assure for him the place in the guitar’s history which he undoubtedly deserves.

Michael McCartney

Addendum by David Hyde:
I found the following at the “California State University Nortridge International Guitar Research Archive”:

Schulz, Leonard ( arranged by ) (VOB 2384)


Josiah Andrew Hudleston married Susan Eleanor Wallace on 4th February 1826 and they had one child Josiah Hudleston, later a Colonel in the Madras Staff Corps. He is the grandfather of Joan Hyde (nee Hudleston).Susan died 15th Oct. 1837 and Josiah later married Ellen Langley on 28th Oct 1838. 

Susan Eleanor Wallace and a brother
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