In this wide-ranging and challenging book, Ruth Smith shows that the words to Handel's oratorios reflect the events and ideas of their time and have far greater meaning than has hitherto been realised. She explores literature, music, aesthetics, politics and religion to reveal Handel's works as conduits for eighteenth-century thought and sensibility. She provides a full picure of Handel's librettists and shows how their oratorio texts express key moral-political preoccupations and engage with contemporary ideological debate. British identity, the need for national unity, the conduct of war, the role of government, the authority of the Bible, the purpose of literature, the effect of art - these and many more concerns are addressed in the librettos. The book thus enriches our understanding of Handel, his times, and the relationships between music and its intellectual contexts.
'Ruth Smith's stimulating and instructive study of Handel's Oratorios and Eighteenth-Century Thought offers a sweeping recontextualization of the repertory for which Handel is best known ... demonstrates the potential rewards of a truly crossdisciplinary study of Handel's oeuvre that takes into account the immensely dynamic world in which he lived. We can hope future studies will, like this one, draw on aesthetics, history, literature, politics, religion, and of course music to explore the full contexts and meanings of Handel's works.' Eighteenth-Century Studies Winner of the 1996 Rose Mary Crawshay Prize, awarded by the British Academy. '... a wealth of potential meaning is uncovered here which will enrich the work of future scholars.' Early Music Review 'This is a book which, like the oratorios themselves, will both delight and instruct, bringing a new and fuller understanding of what those extraordinary works meant to their first audiences.' Kenneth Nott Musical Times 'If ever there was a body of work which needed a fresh look, surely this is it, and this is what Ruth Smith offers in her lively and challenging book.' Musical Times '... highly interesting and suggestive book.' British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies