The Ingenious Mr Charles Clagget: Inventor and ‘Harmonizer’ of Musical Instruments

Rachael Durkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Charles Clagget (1733–1796) is a name many working in organology will have come across, particularly those concerned with instruments of the eighteenth century, keyboard history, or developments in valved brass. Clagget’s life was multifaceted; he worked as a musician, musical director, teacher, composer, dancing-master, and latterly as an inventor and ‘improver’ of musical instruments. Despite the reach and legacy of Clagget’s name, no critical scholarship concerning his life and work exists. This article is the first scholarly discussion of Clagget’s 15 inventions, nine of which concern tuning, intonation and temperament. Through exploration of his overlooked correspondence with the former musical instrument maker turned engineer James Watt, and Clagget’s two patents for musical inventions, my study here reveals that Clagget sought to recast himself as an innovator in order to achieve upward social mobility against the backdrop of an industrialised Enlightenment Britain. With discussion of Clagget’s social networks, his move to London, and his final fall from grace, this article aims to generate further interest in Clagget’s life and work during one of the most exciting periods for musical instrument innovation in early modern Britain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-247
Number of pages24
JournalThe Galpin Society journal
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2023

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