Thomas Greeting

? - 6th May 1682

A section from the wood-block printed title page of The Pleasant Companion by Thomas Greeting, showing a man holding a flageolet.

Thomas Greeting was a court musician who became one of the first English exponents of the French flageolet.

Little is known about Greeting’s early life and his date of birth and origins are still unknown.

In December 1662, he was appointed as “Musitian [sic] in Ordinary Without Fee” to King Charles II and, by 1668, had become listed in the roll of the Twenty-Four Violinists at Court. Around this time he wrote his most famous work “The Pleasant Companion, or New Lessons on the Flagelet”. Samuel Pepys bought a hand copied version of it in 1668 and took lessons for himself and his wife from Greeting. Printed versions appeared soon afterwards, with a least seven editions being printed in the next few years.

The Flagelet is an Instrument that may very fitly be termed A Pleasant Companion, for it may be carried in the Pocket, and so without any trouble bear one company either by Land or by Water. It hath this advantage over other Instruments, that it is always in Tune, which they are not: And for those whose Geneius leads them to Musick, I know not a more easie and pleasant Instrument: And though it at first may seem difficult to Beginners, yet with the Practice of a few hours, observing these following Directions, and a little assistance of a Skilful Master, the knowledge hereof may be readily attained unto. The introduction to Greeting’s Pleasant Copmanion.

Greeting’s first paid post was in March 1674 when he was appointed as sackbut player and violinist to the Chapel Royal. However, he was already making a comfortable living playing, teaching and dealing in flageolets.

Greeting’s life was, however, cut short on the 6th May 1682 when the frigate he was in, the HMS Gloucester, ran aground near Yarmouth, in Norfolk, whilst on the way to Leith, in Scotland. Many of those on board, including Greeting, were killed. British history may have been changed quite dramatically had the Duke of Norfolk (the future King James II), also on board, not survived. Following his death, his wife was paid a pension from Secret Service funds which may suggest that Greeting had more talents than just musical ones.

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