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Ruth Smith

(b Gopsall, Leics., 1700; d Gopsall, bur. Nether Whitacre, Warwicks., Nov 20, 1773). English patron, scholar and librettist. The grandson of a wealthy Birmingham ironmaster, he was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, and subsequently divided his time between London and the family estate of Gopsall, Leicestershire, which he inherited, with properties in five other counties, in 1747.

A member of the circle of Handel’s admirers that included the 4th Earl of Shaftesbury and James Harris, Jennens’s devotion to Handel’s music is first attested in his subscription to Rodelinda (1725), the first Handel score published by subscription; thereafter he was a constant and generous subscriber. Apparently aiming at a complete archive, he amassed the most comprehensive contemporary collection of Handel’s music, both manuscript copies and printed editions, forming the Aylesford Collection (principally GB-Mp ; named after his cousin who inherited it), which also included works by more than 40 other composers, mainly Italian but also English. Through the agency of his friend Edward Holdsworth, a grand tour tutor, he acquired newly published and MS music from Italy, including part of Cardinal Ottoboni’s library, from which Handel borrowed and which he used. Evidently a competent keyboard player, Jennens figured the bass lines in many of his MS copies. He owned one of the first pianos in England, a Cristofori shipped from Florence in ...