Edward Elgar

On this date in 1857, British composer ("Pomp and Circumstance") Edward Elgar was born in England. Raised as a believing Roman Catholic, he discarded his faith toward the end of his life. Most of his earlier works were religious in nature, such as "The Apostles" and "The Kingdom," intended to be part of a trilogy, which Elgar never finished. Writes biographer Byron Adams, "Paradoxically, the excursion into biblical exegesis that Elgar did during the creation of 'The Apostles' and 'The Kingdom' could have played a part in the unraveling of the composer's already frayed beliefs." Elgar requested cremation and that his ashes be scattered at the confluence of the Severn and Teme rivers, which conflicted with the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. When Elgar was unconscious due to heavy doses of morphine, his daughter summoned a priest. His biographer writes: "Betrayed by friends and family, manipulated by ruthless commercial interests and without consolation, Elgar died on 23 February 1934, and was buried next to his wife in the cemetery of St. Wulstan's Roman Catholic Church in Little Malvern." D. 1934.

"Arthur Thomson, the Birmingham doctor who delivered the fatal diagnosis of cancer to the composer, reported that Elgar "told me that he had no faith whatever in an afterlife: 'I believe there is nothing but complete oblivion.'"

—-Byron Adams, "Elgar's Later Oratorios" (in Grimley, Daniel and Rushton, Julian, editors, The Cambridge Companion to Elgar. Cambridge University Press, 2004)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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