William Jackson of Exeter (1730 - 1803)
By 1755, when he published his first set of songs, the composer had already described himself as “of Exeter” in order to distinguish himself from a musical namesake: a prescient epithet, since apart from brief periods in London and one visit to the Continent, he was to pass his life in his native city, where in 1777 he became cathedral sub-chanter, organist, lay vicar and master of the choristers. It was in London that he had studied for a while with John Travers (d.1758), who had himself published a set of canzonets, for various vocal scorings, as early as 1746. Travers had been an important figure in the revival of “ancient music” in mid-Georgian London, and both he and Jackson frequented the Madrigal Society where they would have heard 16th and 17th century vocal music. Jackson belongs to that pre-Romantic moment when music as a profession started to attract the liberally-educated middle classes. The son of a grocer, Jackson was not simply a practical musician: he also became a talented artist in oils, and published sometimes controversial essays on both music and the arts in general. His music was not forgotten in the 19th century and as late as 1897 four of the canzonets were republished in partsong arrangements.