.edward elgar

In the summer of 1900 I went cycling with some cousins to Scotland where we had a thrilling time which was duly reported to Edward by letter. The result was that when I returned to Malvern I found that he had bought a bicycle which he had been taught to ride by Mr Little of Birchwood and on which at the first opportunity he wobbled round to The Mount with the suggestion that I should go for a ride with him.
Rosa Burley

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In 1899, at the age of 42, Edward Elgar was suddenly thrown into the limelight as one of Britain's finest composers with the coming into being of the Enigma Variations, a rank he still holds today. That he took up cycling in 1900 means it can't really be claimed that the two-wheeled experience was a driver for his success (that accolade probably goes to his wife Alice), but there can be no doubt that cycling, for an albeit short length of time, became a big part of the musician's life, that took him places that most certainly inspired him.

With the Malvern Hills on your doorstep there would be no shortage of landscape and views and breathtaking beauty to drink in and then pour back out into musical notation. Although as friend Rosa Barley commented, it was something of a wobbly start to what would blossom into a bit of an obsession.

That first bike, purchased for £21/10/-, was a Royal Sunbeam. The fixed wheel contraption took him on long rides through the hills, and was named "Mr Phoebus" by him. The name is clearly catchy, being used by others as names, with credit due to Elgar, for the likes of a blog and even a Malvern Hills brewery beer (which sadly appears to have been discontinued, having been created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Elgar's birthday).

However, much as he loved Mr Phoebus, the new-fangled freewheel a few years later tempted him to another Sunbeam and that first bike found its way into the hands of Mr Jaeger - Elgar's friend and publisher.

In those cycling days Elgar's wife Alive kept a diary of rides (she initially learned with him, but didn't take to the new contraption with as much enthusiasm as her husband) and he was something of a distance cyclist, his 'season' starting in March, and over the first two years covering some 1,300 miles. On a fixed wheel. In the Malvern Hills. Wearing tweed.

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