A sound friendship forged in war

Exploring the Hispanic-Anglosphere…

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Two autograph letters from Federico Moretti to James Duff, fourth Earl of Fife (courtesy of the The Sir Duncan Rice Library Special Collections, University of Aberdeen).

Fandango by Federico Moretti performed by Dr Ana Carpintero playing an original Fabricatore guitar dating back to 1819 (live performance)

Fandango by Federico Moretti performed by Dr Ana Carpintero playing an original Fabricatore guitar dating back to 1819 (studio recording)

Authors of text: Ana Carpintero and Graciela Iglesias-Rogers

Signed by the guitar composer and virtuoso Federico Moretti (1769-1839) , these letters offer a unique insight into his close relationship with a Scottish nobleman, James Duff, Viscount Macduff, fourth Earl of Fife (1776-1857) as well as on life in Spain towards the end of the Napoleonic era. Although they shared a passion for music, their friendship had been forged during the Spanish War of Independence, also known as the Peninsular War (1808-1814) when the two men fought in the ranks of the Spanish army – in the case of Duff as a volunteer. Moretti also acted at times as an intelligence officer. The letters were penned in Cadiz on 20 May and 12 August 1814, respectively, and they make mention to common friends and acquaintances as well as to the situation in Cadiz following the return to the throne of Ferdinand VII and his decision to end the constitutional regime.  Moretti opened the first missive stating that


‘(…) Con el nuevo orden  de cosas está Cadiz mui contento, y ya ni se acuerda la gente que hubo Cortes, ni Constitucion. Se preparan mil fiestas, y todo va en popa -, pero como siempre yo soy victima, es el caso que la semana anterior devia haberse visto mi eterno proceso, y se ha suspendido mientras tanto que no se establezca el tribunal competente & de modo que no puedo aprobecharme de los primeros momentos de gracias que hará nuestro amado Monarca, ni disfruto las muchas fiestas que deven egecutar en Madrid.’


‘(…) With the new order of things, Cadiz is very pleased and the people barely remembers that there were neither Cortes nor Constitution. Thousands of parties are being prepared and everything goes splendidly, but as usual I end up being a victim – it is the case that last week my eternal [judicial] process was scheduled to be heard and as a result it was suspended until the establishment of a new competent court and therefore I cannot take advantage of the first moments of grace [sic] that our beloved Monarch will grant, nor I enjoy the many parties that must be being held in Madrid [at the moment]’.


Moretti’s ‘eternal process’ was an inquiry into his actions during the battle of Évora (29 July 1808) which had resulted in a French victory. But the story ended positively. The second letter had for sole purpose to convey to his friend the good news that on that very day (12 August 1814) a Council of War of Generals in Andalusia had cleared his name. Aside from exchanging personal tribulations and local gossip, Moretti and Fife had in common a taste for Spanish music, particularly Andalusian pieces such as the fandango (you can listen above a piece composed by Moretti performed live in a guitar dating back to 1819  at the National Trust Tyntesfield on 4 November 2017 and also in a studio recording). It is indeed surprising that music did not figure among the topics discussed in these two letters considering that only a couple of years earlier Moretti had published through a London-based publishing house a booklet with twelve songs dedicated to the Earl of Fife and entitled Doce canciones con acompañamiento de guitarra : op. XXIV compuestas y dedicadas a su amigo, el Conde de Fife, por el Brigadier Dn. Frederico [sic] Moretti, coronel de la Legión de Voluntarios Extrangeros [sic], académico philarmónico de Bolonia, socio de los reales Conservatorios de Música de Nápoles & C. ; arregladas para el piano forte por Dn. Manuel Rücker.


The exhibition continues>

Sources and Suggested Reading: The Sir Duncan Rice Library Special Collections, University of Aberdeen, Duff Family Papers, MS 3175/40 Federico Moretti to Earl of Fife, Cadiz, 20 May 1814 and MS 3175/1403/2 Moretti to Fife, Cadiz, 12 August 1814;  Graciela Iglesias-Rogers, British Liberators in the Age of Napoleon: Volunteering under the Spanish Army in the Peninsular War (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2014), 29, 114-15; Ana Carpintero, ‘Vida y obra del músico Federico Moretti: estudio documental y artístico’, Phd thesis, Universidad de Zaragoza, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Departamento de Historia del Arte, Zaragoza, 2015.

How to cite: To cite from this page, please use any style (Chicago, Harvard, etc). Our preferred citation form is: Ana Carpintero and Graciela Iglesias-Rogers, A sound frienship forged in war’, Exploring the Hispanic-Anglosphere, an online exhibition – The Hispanic-Anglosphere: transnational networks, global communities (late 18th to early 20th centuries), project funded by the AHRC and the University of Winchester in partnership with the National Trust, [https://hispanic-anglosphere.com/online-exhibitions/a-sound-friendship-forged-in-war, accessed – please add the date of your visit].

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