David W. Barber's setting of a poem by Burgess, titled The Silver Swan, with accompanying letter from Barber to Burgess, dated 31 August 1979

Scope and Content

The score is inscribed "for Mr Anthony Burgess, with respect and gratitude." Score by David W. Barber. Text by Burgess.

Administrative / Biographical History

It is presumed that Burgess's poem is inspired by Orlando Gibbons' (1583-1625) madrigal, The Silver Swan.

David W. Barber's letter to Burgess of 31 August 1979 provides further context for Barber's composition. In the letter, Barber thanks Burgess for replying to his previous enquiry about a madrigal that was referred to in Burgess's novel Nothing Like the Sun and for sending "some lines of poetry for me,". In gratitude for Burgess's reply, Barber writes that he has set Burgess's poem ""as I imagine it might have been sung within the context of your novel."

The letter and score were enclosed within a copy of Jeffrey Holmes' Shakespeare was a Computer Programmer (Brunswick Press, Canada, 1975) , which Barber had annotated with one of his own acrostic sonnets. (The acrostic reads "Anthony Burgess".)

Burgess wrote the preface to Barber's "Bach, Beethoven and the Boys: Music History as it Ought to be Taught" in 1985 and Barber subsequently sent Burgess a signed copy of his book When the Fat Lady Sings: Opera History As It Ought to Be Taught (Sound and Vision, Toronto, 1990), inscribed "For Anthony Burgess, an opus on opera, with best wishes, David W. Barber, Dec 90."

Related Material

For Jeffrey Holmes' Shakespeare was a Computer Programmer (Brunswick Press, Canada, 1975) and When the Fat Lady Sings: Opera History As It Ought to Be Taught (Sound and Vision, Toronto, 1990), see Burgess's private library at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.