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CHAPTER IV. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. I 
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878, 1917). 8 Vols. Vol. I.
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I shall conclude this volume with a brief sketch of the leading intellectual and social changes of the period we have been examining which have not fallen within the scope of the preceding narrative. In the higher forms of intellect if we omit the best works of Pope and Swift, who belong chiefly to the reign of Anne, the reigns of George I. and George II. were, on the whole, not prolific, but the influence of the press was great and growing, though periodical writing was far less brilliant than in the preceding period. Among other writers, Fielding, Lyttleton, and Chesterfield occasionally contributed to it. The ‘Craftsman’ especially, though now utterly neglected, is said to have once attained a circulation of 10,000, was believed to have eclipsed the ‘Spectator,’ and undoubtedly contributed largely to the downfall of Walpole. Though set up by Bolingbroke and Pulteney, it was edited by an obscure and disreputable writer named Amhurst, who devoted nearly twenty years to the service of the faction, but who was utterly neglected by them in the compromise of 1742. He died of a broken heart, and owed his grave to the charity of a bookseller. We have already seen the large sum which Walpole, though in general wholly indifferent to literary merit, bestowed upon the Government press, and its writers were also occasionally rewarded by Government patronage. Thus Trenchard, the author of ‘Cato's Letters,’ obtained the post of ‘commissioner of wine-licences’ from Walpole; and Concannon, another ministerial writer, was made Attorney-General of Jamaica by Newcastle. In 1724 there were three daily and five weekly papers printed in London, as well as ten which appeared three times a week.1 The number steadily increased, and a provincial press gradually grew up. The first trace of newspapers outside London is in the time of the Commonwealth, when the contending armies carried with them printing presses for the purpose of issuing reports of their proceedings; but the first regular provincial papers appear to have been created in the last decade of the seventeenth century, and by the middle of the eighteenth century almost every important provincial town had its local organ. Political caricatures, which were probably Italian in their origin,1 came into fashion in England during the South Sea panic. Caricatures on cards, which were for a time exceedingly popular, were invented by George Townshend, in 1756.2 As the century advanced the political importance of the press became very apparent. ‘Newspapers,’ said a writer in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ of 1731, ‘are of late so multiplied as to render it impossible, unless a man makes it his business, to consult them all.… Upon calculating the number of newspapers it is found that (besides divers written accounts) no less than 200 half-sheets per month are thrown from the press, only in London, and about is many printed elsewhere in the three kingdoms; … so that they are become the chief channels of amusement and intelligence.’3 ‘The people of Great Britain,’ said Mr. Danvers in 1738, ‘are governed by a power that never was heard of as a supreme authority in any age or country before.… It is the government of the press. The stuff which our weekly newspapers are filled with, is received with greater reverence than Acts of Parliament, and the sentiments of one of these scribblers have more weight with the multitude than the opinion of the best politician in the kingdom.’4 ‘No species of literary men,’ wrote Dr. Johnson in 1758, ‘has lately been so much multiplied as the writers of news. Not many years ago the nation was content with one Gazette, but now we have not only in the metropolis, papers of every morning and every evening, but almost every large town has its weekly historian.’1 One of the consequences of the complete subjection of literary men to the booksellers was the creation of magazines, which afforded a more certain and rapid remuneration than books, and gave many writers a scanty and precarious subsistence. The ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ appeared in 1731. It was speedily followed by its rival, the ‘London Magazine;’ and in 1750 there were eight periodicals of this kind. In the middle of the eighteenth century also, literary reviews began in England. In 1752 there were three—the ‘Literary,’ the ‘Critical,’ and the ‘Monthly.’ Under George II. an additional tax of 1/2d. had been imposed on newspapers, and an additional duty of a shilling on advertisements; but the demand for this form of literature was so great that these impositions do not appear to have seriously checked it.2 The essay writers had made it their great object as much as possible to popularise and diffuse knowledge, and to bring down every question to a level with the capacities of the idlest reader; and without any great change in education, any display of extraordinary genius, or any real enthusiasm for knowledge, the circle of intelligence was slowly enlarged. The progress was probably even greater among women than among men. Swift, in one of his latest letters, noticed the great improvement which had taken place during his lifetime in the education and in the writing of ladies;3 and it is to this period that some of the best female correspondence in our literature belongs.
The prevailing coarseness, however, of fashionable life and sentiment was but little mitigated. The writings of Swift, Defoe, Fielding, Coventry, and Smollett are sufficient to illustrate the great difference which in this respect separated the first half of the eighteenth century from our own day, and unlike Anne, the first two Hanoverian sovereigns did nothing to improve the prevailing tone. Each king lived publicly with mistresses, and the immorality of their Courts was accompanied by nothing of that refinement or grace which has often cast a softening veil over much deeper and more general corruption. On this subject the vivid and undoubtedly authentic picture of the Court of George II. which is furnished by Lord Hervey enables us to speak with much confidence. Few figures in the history of the time are more worthy of study than that shrewd and coarse-minded Queen, who by such infinite adroitness, and by such amazing condescensions, succeeded in obtaining insensibly a complete command over the mind of her husband, and a powerful influence over the politics of England. Living herself a life of unsullied virtue, discharging under circumstances of peculiar difficulty the duties of a wife with the most exemplary patience and diligence, exercising her great influence in Church and State with singular wisdom, patriotism, and benevolence, she passed through life jesting on the vices of her husband and of his ministers with the coarseness of a trooper, receiving from her husband the earliest and fullest accounts of every new love affair in which he was engaged, and prepared to welcome each new mistress, provided only she could herself keep the first place in his judgment and in his confidence. The character of their relation remained unbroken to the end. No stranger death scene was ever painted than that of Caroline,1 nor can we easily find a more striking illustration of the inconsistencies of human nature than that a woman so coarse and cynical in her judgments of others should have herself died a victim of an excessive and misplaced delicacy.2 The works of Richardson, which appeared between 1740 and 1753, and which at once attained an extraordinary popularity, probably contributed something to refine the tone of society, but the improvement was not very perceptible till the reign of George III. Sir Walter Scott, in a well-known anecdote, has illustrated very happily the change that had taken place. He tells us that a grand-aunt of his own assured him that the novels of Aphra Behn were as current upon the toilet table in her youth as the novels of Miss Edgeworth in her old age, and he has described very vividly the astonishment of his old relative when, curiosity leading her, after a long interval of years, to turn over the forgotten pages she had delighted in when young, she found that, sitting alone at the age of eighty, she was unable to read without shame a book, which sixty years before she had heard read out for amusement in large circles consisting of the best society in London.1
In one respect during the first half of the eighteenth century there was a marked deterioration. The passion for gambling, which had been very prevalent since the Restoration, appears to have attained its climax under the first two Georges. It had been very considerably stimulated by the madness of speculation which infected all classes during the South Sea mania. That desire to make rapid fortunes, that contempt for the slow and steady gains of industry which has in our own day so often produced the wildest combinations of recklessness and credulity, was never more apparent. Scheme after scheme of the most fantastic description rose, and glittered, and burst. Companies for ‘Fishing up Wrecks on the Irish Coast,’ for ‘Insurance against Losses by Servants,’ for ‘Making Salt Water Fresh,’ for ‘Extracting Silver from Lead,’ for ‘Transmuting Quicksilver into Malleable and Fine Metal,’ for ‘Importing Jackasses from Spain,’ for ‘Trading in Human Hair,’ for ‘A Wheel for Perpetual Motion,’ as well as many others, attracted crowds of eager subscribers. One projector announced a Company ‘for an undertaking which shall in due time be revealed,’ each subscriber to pay at once two guineas, and afterwards to receive a share of a hundred, with a disclosure of the object. In a single morning he received 2,000 guineas, with which he immediately decamped.1
It was natural that this passion for speculation should have stimulated the taste for gambling in private life. It had long been inveterate among the upper classes, and it soon rose to an unprecedented height. The chief, or, at least, the most prominent, centre was White's chocolate-house. Swift tells us that Lord Oxford never passed it without bestowing on it a curse as ‘the bane of the English nobility;’ and it continued during the greater part of the century to be the scene of the wildest and most extravagant gambling. It was, however, only the most prominent among many similar establishments which sprang up around Charing Cross, Leicester Fields, and Golden Square. The Duke of Devonshire lost an estate at a game of basset. The fine intellect of Chesterfield was thoroughly enslaved by the vice. At Bath, which was then the centre of English fashion, it reigned supreme; and the physicians even recommended it to their patients as a form of distraction. In the green-rooms of the theatres, as Mrs. Bellamy assures us, thousands were often lost and won in a single night. Among fashionable ladies the passion was quite as strong as among men, and the professor of whist and quadrille became a regular attendant at their levees. Miss Pelham, the daughter of the prime minister, was one of the most notorious gamblers of her time, and Lady Cowper speaks in her ‘Diary’ of sittings at Court at which the lowest stake was 200 guineas. The public lotteries contributed very powerfully to diffuse the taste for gambling among all classes. They had begun in England in the seventeenth century; and though more than once forbidden, they enabled the Government to raise money with so little unpopularity that they were again resorted to. ‘I cannot forbear telling you,’ wrote Addison to an Irish friend in 1711, ‘that last week I drew a prize of 1,000l. in the lottery.’2 Fielding wrote a satire on the passion for lotteries prevalent in his time. The discovery of some gross frauds in their management contributed to throw them into discredit, and Pelham is said to have expressed some disapproval of them, but they were not finally suppressed in England till 1823. Westminster Bridge, which was begun in 1736, was built chiefly from the produce of lotteries. Another instance of their employment is deserving of special remembrance, for it is connected with the origin of one of the most valuable of London institutions. In 1753 lotteries were established to purchase the Sloane collection and the Harleian manuscripts, which were combined with the Cottonian collection, and deposited in Montague House under the name of the British Museum.1
Concerning the amusements and social life of the upper classes I shall content myself with making a few somewhat miscellaneous observations. The subject is a very large one, and it would require volumes to exhaust it; but it is, I think, possible to select from the mass of details a few facts which are not without a real historic importance, as indicating the tendencies of taste, and thus throwing some light on the moral history of the nation. It was said that the Revolution brought four tastes into England, two of which were chiefly due to Mary, and two to her husband. To Mary was due a passion for coloured East Indian calieoes, which speedily spread through all classes of the community, and also a passion for rare and eccentric porcelain, which continued for some generations to be a favourite topic with the satirists. William, on his side, set the fashion of picture-collecting and gave a great impulse to gardening.2 This latter taste, which forms one of the healthiest elements in English country life, attained its height in the first half of the eighteenth century, and it took a form which was entirely new. In the reign of Charles II. the parks of Greenwich and St. James had been laid out by the great French gardener Le N⊚tre, and the taste which he made general in Europe reigned in its most exaggerated form in England. It appeared to be a main object to compel nature to recede as far as possible, to repress every irregularity, to make the human hand apparent in every shrub, and to convert gardening into an anomalous form of sculpture. The trees were habitually carved into cones, or pyramids, or globes, into smooth, even walls, or into fantastic groups of men and animals. The flower-beds were laid out symmetrically in architectural figures. Long, straight, and formal alleys, a perfect uniformity of design, and a constant recurrence of similar forms, were essential to a well-arranged garden. The passion for gardening, however, at this time took some root in England, and the writings of Evelyn did much to extend it. William introduced the fashion of masses of clipped yews forming the avenue or shading the approaches of the house, and of imposing iron gates. Sir William Temple, in his essay ‘On the Garden of Epicurus,’ accurately reflected the prevailing taste. But early in the eighteenth century two great gardeners—Bridgeman, who died in 1737, and Kent, who died in 1748—originated a new form of landscape-gardening which speedily acquired an almost universal popularity. They utterly discarded all vegetable sculpture and all symmetry of design, gave free scope to the wild, luxuriant and irregular beauties of nature, and made it their aim to reproduce, as far as possible, in a small compass its variety and its freedom. The essay in which Bacon had urged that one part of a garden should be made an imitation of unrestricted nature, the description of Paradise in Milton, and the description of the garden of Armida in Tasso, were cited as foreshadowing the change, and at a later period the poetry of Thomson undoubtedly contributed to sustain it. Addison and Pope laid out their gardens on the new plan, and defended it with their pens,1 and the latter is said to have greatly assisted Kent by his advice. Spence and Horace Walpole were enthusiastic disciples.2 The new system was made the subject of a graceful poem by Mason, and of an ingenious essay by Shenstone, and in 1770 appeared Whately's ‘Observations on Modern Gardening,’ which was the first considerable standard work in England upon the subject. The gardens of the Prince of Wales at Carlton House were imitated from that of Pope at Twickenham.3 Kensington Gardens were laid out by Kent on the new plan, as well as the gardens of Claremont and Esher, those of Lord Burlington at Chiswick, and those of Lord Cobham at Stowe.
The example was speedily followed, and often exaggerated,1 in every part of England, and the revolution of taste was accompanied by a great increase in the love of gardening. In the beginning of the century there were probably not more than 1,000 species of exotics in England, but before its close more than 5,000 new kinds were introduced. When Miller published the first edition of his ‘Dictionary of Gardening’ in 1724, only twelve species of evergreens were grown in the island, and the number of the plants cultivated in England is said to have more than doubled between 1731 and 1768.2 Very many were introduced from Madeira, and the West Indies, which had been explored by Sir Hans Sloane, and from the American colonies, which had been explored by several independent investigators; and the taste for botany was still more diffused by the long controversies that followed the publication in 1735 of the great discovery of Linnæus about the sexual nature of plants.3 Landscape-gardening is said to have been introduced into Ireland by Dr. Delany, the friend of Swift, and into Scotland by Lord Kames,4 but both countries remained in this respect far behind England. At Edinburgh a botanical garden appears to have existed as early as 1680.5 In Ireland a florists’ club was established by some Huguenot refugees in the reign of George I., but it met with no encouragement and speedily expired.6 An Englishman named Threlkeld, who was settled in Dublin, published in 1727 ‘A Synopsis of Irish Plants;’ and another work entitled ‘Botanologia Universalis Hibernica, or a general Irish Herbal,’ was published in 1735 by a writer named Keogh.7 In England the love for gardens and for botany continually extended, and it forms one of the most remarkable features in the history of national tastes during the first half of the eighteenth century.
The poet Gray, in a letter written in 1763, observes that ‘our skill in gardening or laying out grounds is the only taste we can call our own, the only proof of original talent in matters of pleasure.’ In architecture, it is true, England had produced one or two respectable and one really great name; and the fire of London had given Wren a noble field for the display of his genius, but in other departments of art there was an almost absolute blank. Few questions in history are more perplexing, and perhaps insoluble, than the causes which govern the great manifestations of æsthetic genius. Germany, which up to the time of the Reformation was in this respect peculiarly prolific—Germany which is now pre-eminently the land of artistic criticism, and which stands in the first rank of artistic production— can scarcely be said to have produced a single painter of real genius during the long period that elapsed between the death of Holbein and the dawn of the nineteenth century. France, the richest, the most cultivated, the most luxurious nation on the Continent, in spite of a munificent royal patronage of art, was during the same period but little more successful. Many very considerable artists, no doubt, arose; but yet the nation which appears beyond all others to possess the gift of grace and delicacy of touch, which has created the Gobelins tapestry and the Sèvres china, and has governed through a long succession of generations the taste of Europe, could boast of no painter except Claude Lorraine, who had taken absolutely a foremost place; and its art was far inferior to that which grew up in more than one small Italian province, among the canals of Holland, or in the old cities of Flanders. But of all the great civilised nations, England in this respect ranked the last. Dobson, indeed, who had been brought forward by the patronage of Vandyck, and who died at the early age of thirty-six, showed some real talent for portrait-painting, and Oliver, Hilliard, and Cooper some skill in miniature; but still, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, not a single English painter or sculptor had taken a permanent place in European art, and the number of painters, even of third or fourth rate excellence, was very small. The principal, and, indeed, the most congenial, employment of the British artist appears to have been the production of the gaudy sign-boards which nearly every shopkeeper was then accustomed to hang out before his door.1
This complete barrenness of British art is in many ways remarkable. No real deficiency of imagination can be attributed to a nation which has produced the noblest poetic literature in Christendom; and something had been done to stimulate artistic taste. Henry VIII., Elizabeth, and above all, Charles I., had warmly patronised art, and the latter was one of the two greatest collectors of his time. He purchased the cartoons of Raphael and the whole collection of the Duke of Mantua, which was then the most valuable in Europe. He drew over to England both Rubens and Vandyck, and his competition with Philip IV. of Spain was so keen that it is said to have tripled the ordinary price of the works of the great artists.2 In the early years of the eighteenth century the English were already famous for their assiduity in haunting the galleries in Italy,3 and for their zeal in collecting pictures; and their aristocracy possessed ample wealth to enable them to gratify their desires. Catholicism is, no doubt, more favourable to art than Protestantism; but if the change of religion had in some degree impaired the appreciation of Italian or Spanish art, the English were at least in intimate connection with Holland, where a noble school existed which was essentially the creation of Protestantism. A few Italian and a long succession of Dutch and Flemish artists visited England. It possessed, indeed, an admirable school of painting, but it was a school which was represented almost exclusively by foreigners, by Holbein, Rubens, Vandyck, Lely, and Kneller. Foreign writers were accustomed to attribute the utter absence of native talent in art to the aspect of physical nature, and especially to the turbid and depressing gloom of a northern sky; but the explanation will hardly appear sufficient to those who remember that Rembrandt, Van der Helst, Potter, Grerard Dow, Cuyp, and many other artists of consummate power, grew up beneath a sky that is scarcely brighter than that of England, and in a country much less eminently endowed with natural beauty.
I do not pretend to explain fully this defieiency, but several partial solutions may be given. Puritauism was exceedingly inimical to art, and the Parliament in 1645 ordered that the pictures in the royal collection containing representations of the Second Person of the Trinity, or of the Virgin Mary, should be burnt, and that all the other pictures collected by Charles should be sold. Fortunately this very characteristic edict was not fully complied with. Cromwell succeeded in saving the cartoons of Raphael and other less important pictures for England and the world; but a great portion of the art treasures of the King were dispersed. Many of his finest pictures found their way to the Escurial, and a ply which was exceedingly hostile to art was given to a large part of the English people. In order that the artistic capacities of a nation should be largely developed, it is necessary that the great body of the people should come in frequent contact with artistic works, and that there should be institutions securing the means of artistic education. Both of these conditions were wanting in England. In ancient Greece and in modern Florence all classes of the community had the opportunity of becoming familiar with the noblest works of the chisel or of the pencil; their taste was thus gradually educated, and any artistic genius that was latent among them was awakened. But in England by far the greater number of works of art were in private hands, while Sabbatarian prejudices and the division of classes produced by an aristocratic tone of manners, effectually excluded the great mass of the people from the small number of paintings that were in public institutions. Annual exhibitions were as yet unknown.1 The country habits of the English nobility turned their tastes chiefly in the direction of field-sports and other outdoor pursuits, and art never occupied the same prominence in their lives as it did in those of the Cardinals of Rome, or of the rich merchants of Florence, Venice, and Amsterdam. The same predilection for a country life induced most of those who were real collectors to accumulate their treasures in their country-houses, where they were seen only by a few private friends, and were utterly without influence on the nation at large. In the middle of the eighteenth century, England was already very rich in private collections,1 but the proportion of Englishmen who had ever looked at a good picture or a good statue was very small. Nor were there any means of artistic education. At Paris the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture was established as early as 1648, and in 1665 Colbert founded that admirable institution, the French Academy at Rome, for the purpose of providing young artists with the best possible instruction. In England nothing of the kind existed, and in the beginning of the eighteenth century a poor student of art could find no assistance except by private patronage. The first two Georges were absolutely indifferent to art, and although a fashion of collecting pictures had spread very widely among the English aristocracy, their patronage was neither generous nor intelligent. It was observed that portrait-painting, which touched another sentiment besides love of pure art, was the only form that was really encouraged. Painter after painter, distinguished in other branches, came over to England, but they invariably found that they could succeed only by devoting themselves to the one department which appealed directly to the vanity of their patrons.2 ‘Painters of history,’ said Kneller, ‘make the dead live, but do not begin to live themselves till they are dead. I paint the living and they make me live.’ Hogarth described portrait-painting as ‘the only flourishing branch of the high tree of British art.’ Barry complained that ‘the difficulty of subsisting by any other species of art … and the love of ease and affluence had so operated upon our youth that the country had been filled with this species of artist.’ The Dutch portrait-painter Vanloo, who came to London in 1737, was so popular that, as a nearly contemporary writer tells us, ‘for several weeks after his arrival, the train of carriages at his door was like that at the door of a theatre. He had some hundreds of portraits begun, and was obliged to give as many as five sittings in a day. Large bribes were given by many to the man who kept the register of his engagements, in order to accelerate their sittings, and when that was not done, it was often necessary to wait six weeks.’ Vanloo remained in England only four years, but is said to have accumulated in that time considerable wealth.1 On the other hand, it is very remarkable that, in the next generation, Wilson, the first great English landscape-painter, and Barry, the first historical painter of real talent, were both of them unable to earn even a small competence, and both of them died in extreme poverty. Vertue, who died in 1756, carried the art of engraving to considerable perfection, and was followed by Boydell and a few other native engravers. Kneller, and afterwards Thornhill, made some attempts in the first quarter of the century to maintain a private academy in England for artistic instruction, but they appear to have met with little encouragement, and the reign of George I. is on the whole one of the darkest periods in the history of English art. Early in the next reign, however, a painter of great and original genius emerged from obscurity, who, in a low form of art, attained a high, and almost a supreme, perfection. William Hogarth was born in London, of obscure parents, in 1698. His early years were chiefly passed in engraving arms, shop bills, and plates for books. He then painted portraits, some of them of singular beauty, and occasionally furnished designs for tapestry. In 1730 he secretly married the daughter of Sir James Thornhill, the fashionable artist of the day, and in 1731 he completed his ‘Harlot's Progress,’ which proved to all good judges that, for the first time, a really great native painter had arisen in England. Had his genius been of a higher order, he would probably have been less successful. He had little charm of colouring or sense of beauty, and no power of idealising nature; but the intense realism, the admirable homeliness and truth of his pictures of English life, and the excellent morals they invariably conveyed, appealed to all classes, while their deep and various meaning, and the sombre imagination he sometimes threw over his conceptions,1 raised them far above the level of the mere grotesque. The popularity of his designs was such that they were immensely imitated, and it was found necessary to pass an Act of Parliament, in 1735, vesting an exclusive right in designers and engravers, and restraining the multiplying of copies of works without the consent of the artist.2 In the same reign sculpture in England was largely pursued by Rysbrack, a native of Antwerp, and by Roubiliac, a native of Lyons.
The taste for music was more widely diffused than that for painting; but although it made rapid progress in the first half of the eighteenth century, this was in no degree due to native talent. A distinguished French critic3 has noticed, as one of the most striking of the many differences between the two great branches of the Teutonic race, that, among all modern civilised nations, the Germans are probably the most eminent, and the English the most deficient, in musical talent. Up to the close of the seventeenth century, however, this distinction did not exist, and England might fairly claim a very respectable rank among musical nations. No feature in the poetry of Shakespeare or Milton is more remarkable than the exquisite and delicate appreciation of music they continually evince, and the musical dramas known under the name of masques, which were so popular from the time of Ben Jonson to the time of the Rebellion, kept up a general taste for the art. Henry Lawes, who composed the music for ‘Comus,’ as well as edited the poem, and to whom Milton has paid a beautiful compliment,4 was conspicuous as a composer. Blow, in the last years of the seventeenth century, contributed much to church music; but the really great name in English music was Henry Purcell, who was born in 1658, and died in 1697, and who, in the opinion of many competent judges, deserves to rank among the very greatest composers who had up to that date arisen in Europe. In the early years of the eighteenth century, however, music was purely an exotic. The capital fact of this period was the introduction and great popularity of the Italian opera. Operas on the Italian model first appeared in England in 1705. They were at first sung in English, and by English performers; but soon after, some Italian castrati having come over, the principal characters in the dialogue sang in Italian, while the subordinate characters answered in English. After two or three years, this absurdity passed away, and the operas became wholly Italian. In 1710 the illustrious Handel first came to England, and ‘Rinaldo,’ his earliest opera, appeared in 1711. Bononcini, who at one time rivalled his popularity as a composer, followed a few years later. An Academy for Music was founded in 1720, and several Italian singers of the highest merit were brought over, at salaries which were then unparalleled in Europe. The two great female singers Cuzzoni and La Faustina obtained each 2,000 guineas a-year, Farinelli 1,500 guineas and a benefit, Senesino 1,400 guineas. The rivalry between Cuzzoni and La Faustina, and the rivalry between Handel and Bononcini, divided society into factions almost like those of the Byzantine empire; and the conflicting claims of the two composers were celebrated in a well-known epigram, which has been commonly attributed to Swift, but which was in reality written by Byrom.1 The author little imagined that one of the composers, whom he treated with such contempt, was, in his own, and that no ignoble, sphere, among the master intellects of mankind.1
The difficulties against which the new entertainment had to struggle were very great. Addison opposed it bitterly in the ‘Spectator.’ The partisans of the regular drama denounced it as an absurd and mischievous novelty. It had to encounter the strong popular prejudice against foreigners and Papists. It was weakened by perpetual quarrels of composers and singers, and it was supported chiefly by the small and capricious circle of fashionable society. In 1717 the Italian theatre was closed for want of support, but it revived in 1720 under the auspices of Handel. The extraordinary success of the ‘Beggars’ Opera,’ which appeared in 1728, for a time threw it completely in the shade. The music of Handel was deserted, and the Italian theatre again closed. It reopened in the following year under the joint direction of Handel and of Heidegger, a Swiss, famous for his ugliness, his impudence, and his skill in organising public amusements; and it continued to flourish until a quarrel broke out between Handel and the singer Senesino. The great nobles, who were the chief supporters of the opera, took the side of the singer, set up, in 1733, a rival theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, attracted to it Heidegger and most of the best singers, made it their special object to ruin Handel, and succeeded in so governing the course of fashion that his theatre was almost deserted. The King, it is true, steadily supported him, and Queen Caroline, with the tact she usually showed in discovering the highest talent in the country, threw her whole enthusiasm into his cause; but the Prince of Wales, who was in violent opposition to his father, took the opposite side, and the Court could not save the great musician from ruin. ‘The King and Queen,’ says Lord Hervey, ‘sat freezing constantly at his empty Haymarket opera, whilst the Prince, with the chief of the nobility, went as constantly to that of Lincoln's Inn Fields.’2 Handel struggled for some time vainly against the stream; all the savings he had amassed were lost, and his career was for a time ended by bankruptcy in 1737.
The effect, however, was only to make him turn more exclusively to that nobler and loftier form of music in which he had no rival. Like the great blind poet of Puritanism, whom in more than one respect he resembled, he was indeed one of those whose lips the Seraphim had touched and purified with the hallowed fire from the altar; and it was only when interpreting the highest religious emotions that his transcendent genius was fully felt. If it be true that music is in modern art what painting was in the Renaissance and what sculpture was in antiquity, the name of Handel can be placed little below those of Raphael and of Phidias, and it is to his sacred music that his pre-eminence is mainly due. To recall sacred music from the neglect into which it had fallen in England had long been his desire. In 1713 he had composed a grand ‘Te Deum’ and ‘Jubilate’ in celebration of the Peace of Utrecht. From 1718 to 1721 he had been organist to the chapel of the Duke of Chandos. He introduced for the first time organ concerts into England; and, in addition to many beautiful anthems, he composed his oratorio of ‘Esther’ for the Duke of Chandos's chapel. Oratorios had been invented in the middle of the sixteenth century by St. Philip Neri in order to counteract the attractions of the theatre, but they had hitherto been absolutely unknown in England. ‘Esther’ was brought upon the public stage for the first time in 1732. It was followed in 1733 by ‘Deborah’ and by ‘Athalie,’ in 1738 by ‘Israel in Egypt,’ in 1740 by ‘Saul.’ The earliest of these great compositions were received with considerable applause, but the last two were almost utterly neglected. The musical education of the public was not sufficient to appreciate them; the leaders of fashion who professed to regulate taste in matters of art steadily and vindictively derided them; and the King and Queen incurred no small ridicule for their persistent admiration of Handel. A story is told of Chesterfield leaving the empty theatre in which an oratorio was being sung before the King, and giving as his reason that he did not desire to intrude on the privacy of his sovereign. Horace Walpole, who assumed the language of a great critic in matters of art, but whose cold heart and feebly fastidious taste were usually incapable of appreciating any high form of excellence, sneered at Handel, as he afterwards sneered at Garrick; and it came to be looked upon in fashionable circles as one of the signs of good taste to ridicule his music.1 Some ladies of position actually engaged a famous mimic and comic singer to set up a puppet-show in the hope of drawing away the people from Handel,2 and with the same view they specially selected the days on which an oratorio was performed, for their card parties or concerts.3
There was, of course, a certain party in his favour. Arbuthnot, who was himself an excellent musician, steadily supported him. Pope, though perfectly insensible to the charm of music, resting on the opinion of Arbuthnot, took the same side. A statue of Handel by Roubiliac was erected in Vauxhall in 1738, but of the general depreciation and condemnation of his music there can be no doubt. The death of Queen Caroline, in 1737, deprived him of his warmest patron, and he composed an anthem for her funeral, which Dr. Burney regarded as the most perfect of all his works. After the bankruptcy of his theatre, and the almost total failure of his two last oratorios, he felt it necessary to bend before the storm, and he resolved for a time to fly where his works ‘would be out of the reach of enmity and prejudice.’ He had already composed the music for the greatest of all his works, but he would not risk its production in London, and he adopted the resolution of bringing it out for the first time in Dublin.4
The visit of Handel to Ireland in the December of 1741 has lately been investigated in all its details,1 and it forms a pleasing episode in the Irish history of the eighteenth century. It appears that music had for some time been passionately cultivated in the Irish capital, that a flourishing society had been formed for practising it, and that the music of Handel was already in great favour. It was customary to give frequent concerts for the benefit of Dublin charities, and one of these charities, was at this time attracting great attention. The revelation of the frightful abuses in the debtors’ prisons in Ireland had made a deep impression, and a society was formed for ameliorating the condition of the inmates, compounding with their creditors and releasing as many as possible from prison. In the year 1739 no less than 188 had been freed from a condition of extreme misery, and the charity still continued. It was for the benefit of this and of two older charities2 that the ‘Messiah’ of Handel was first produced, in Dublin, in April 1742. In the interval that had elapsed since his arrival in Ireland its composer had abundant evidence that the animosity which had pursued him so bitterly in England had not crossed the Channel. In a remarkable letter dated December 29, written to his friend Charles Jennens,3 who had selected the passages of Scripture for the ‘Messiah,’ Handel describes the success of a series of concerts which he had begun: ‘The nobility did me the honour to make amongst themselves a subscription for six nights, which did fill a room of 600 persons, so that I needed not sell one single ticket at the door; and, without vanity, the performance was received with a general approbation … I cannot sufficiently express the kind treatment I receive here, but the politeness of this generous nation cannot be unknown to you, so I let you judge of the satisfaction I enjoy, passing my time with honour, profit, and pleasure.’ A new series of concerts was performed with equal success, and on April 8, 1742, the ‘Messiah’ was rehearsed, and on the 13th it was for the first time publicly performed. The choirs of St. Patrick's Cathedral and of Christ's Church were enlisted for the occasion. Mrs, Cibber and Mrs. Avolio sang the chief parts. The Viceroy, the Archbishop of Dublin, the leading Fellows of Trinity College, and most of the other dignitaries in Church and State, were present, and the success was overwhelming and immediate. The crowds who thronged the Music Hall were so great that an advertisement was issued begging the ladies for the occasion to discard their hoops, and no discordant voice appears to have broken the unanimity of applause. Handel, whose sensitive nature had been embittered by long neglect and hostility, has recorded in touching terms the completeness of his triumph. He remained in Ireland till the following August, a welcome guest in every circle; and he is said to have expressed his surprise and admiration at the beauty of those national melodies which were then unknown out of Ireland, but which the poetry of Moore has, in our own century, carried over the world.
On his return to London, however, he found the hostility against him but little diminished. The ‘Messiah,’ when first produced in London, if it did not absolutely fail, was but coldly received, and it is shameful and melancholy to relate that in 1745 Handel was for a second time reduced to bankruptcy. The first really unequivocal success he obtained in England for many years was his ‘Judas Maccabæus,’ which was composed in 1746, and brought out in the following year. It was dedicated to the Duke of Cumberland, and was intended to commemorate his victory at Culloden, and this fact, as well as the enthusiastic support of the London Jews, who welcomed it as a glorification of a great Jewish hero, contributed largely to its success. From this time the current of fashion suddenly changed. When the ‘Messiah’ was again produced at Covent Garden in 1750 it was received with general enthusiasm, and the ‘Te Deum’ on the occasion of the victory of Dettingen, and the long series of oratorios which Handel brought out in the closing years of his life, were scarcely less successful. In 1751 he became completely blind, but he still continued to compose music and to play publicly upon the organ. Among other pieces he performed his own ‘Samson,’ and while the choir sang to the pathetic strains of Handel those noble lines in which Milton represented the Jewish hero lamenting the darkness that encompassed him, a thrill of sympathetic emotion passed through the crowded audience as they looked upon the old blind musician, who sat before them at the organ.1 The popularity of his later days restored his fortunes, and he acquired considerable wealth.2 He died on Good Friday in 1759, after a residence in England of forty-nine years, and he obtained the well-won honour of a tomb in Westminster Abbey.3
The great impulse given by Handel to sacred music, and the naturalisation of the opera in England, are the two capital events in English musical history during the first half of the eighteenth century. Apart from these musical performances the love for dramatic entertainments appears to have greatly increased, though the theatre never altogether recovered the blow it had received during the Puritan ascendancy. So much has been said of the necessary effect of theatrical amusements in demoralising nations that it is worthy of special notice that there were ten or eleven theatres open in London in the reign of Elizabeth, and a still greater number in the reign of her successor,4 whereas in the incomparably more profligate reign of Charles II. there were only two. Even these proved too many, and in spite of the attraction of actresses, who were then for the first time permitted upon the stage, and of the great histrionic powers of Hart and of Betterton, it was found necessary to unite the companies in 1684.5 The profligacy of the theatre during the generation that followed the Restoration can hardly be exaggerated, and it continued with little abatement during two reigns. The character of the plays was such that few ladies of respectability and position ventured to appear at the first representation of a new comedy, and those whose curiosity triumphed over their delicacy usually came masked—a custom which at this time became very common, and which naturally led to grave abuses.1 By the time of the Revolution, however, the movement of dissipation had somewhat spent its force, and the appearance in 1698 of Collier's well-known ‘Short View of the Stage,’ had a sensible and an immediate effect. Though the author was a vehement Nonjuror, William expressed warm approbation of his work, and a Royal order was issued to restrain the abuses of the stage. The Master of the Revels, who then licensed plays, began to exercise his function with some severity, and a favourable change passed over public opinion. In the reign of Anne the reformation was much aided by the prohibition of masks in the theatre.2 But although a certain improvement was effected, much still remained to be done. Great scandal was caused by a prologue, written by Garth, and spoken at the opening of the Haymarket theatre in 1705, which congratulated the world that the stage was beginning to take the place of the Church.3 The two Houses of Convocation, in a representation to the Queen in 1711, dwelt strongly on the immorality of the drama.4 Swift placed its degraded condition among the foremost causes of the corruption of the age,5 and it is remarkable that although English play-writers borrowed very largely from the French, the English stage was far inferior to that of France in decorum, modesty, and morality. In this respect at least there was no disposition to imitate French manners, and we may, indeed, trace among English writers no small jealousy of the dramatic supremacy of France. Dryden continually expressed it, and Shadwell displayed it in a strain of grotesque insolence. Among his plays was one called ‘The Miser,’ based upon one of the most perfect of the matchless comedies of Molière. Not content with degrading this noble play by the addition of coarse, obscene, and insipid jests which French taste would never have tolerated, Shadwell prefixed to it a preface in which he gives us with amusing candour his own estimate of the comparative merits of Molière and of himself. ‘The foundation of this play,’ he said, ‘I took from one of Moliere's, called “L'Avare,” but having too few persons and too little action for an English theatre, I added to both so much that I may call more than half this play my own; and I think I may say without vanity that Molière's part of it has not suffered in my hands; nor did I ever know a French comedy made use of by the worst of our poets that was not bettered by them. ‘Tis not barrenness of wit or invention that makes us borrow from the French, but laziness, and this was the occasion of my making use of “L'Avare.”1
Shadwell was a poor poet, but he was for a long time a popular dramatist, and he was sufficiently conspicuous to be appointed poet laureate by William in the place of Dryden. The preface I have cited, coming from such a pen, throws a curious light upon the national taste. Addison and Steele, who contributed in so many ways to turn the stream of fashion in the direction of morality, did something at least, to introduce French decorum into the English drama. Both of them wrote plays, which though of no great merit, had their hour of noisy popularity, and were at least scrupulously moral. ‘I never heard of any plays,’ said Parson Adams, in one of the novels of Fielding, ‘fit for a Christian to read but “Cato” and the “Conscious Lovers,” and I must own in the latter there are some things almost solemn enough for a sermon.’1 The example, however, was not very generally followed, and some of the comedies of Fielding in point of coarseness are little if at all superior to those of Wycherley. Dr. Herring, who was afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, when Court chaplain and preacher at Lincoln's Inn, denounced the ‘Beggars’ Opera’ of Gay with great asperity from the pulpit;2 and Sir John Bernard, in 1735, brought the condition of the theatre before the House of Commons, complaining bitterly that there were now six theatres in London, and that they were sources of great corruption. In the course of the debate one of his chief supporters observed ‘that it was no less surprising than shameful to see so great a change for the worse in the temper and inclinations of the British nation, who were now so extravagantly addicted to lewd and idle diversions that the number of playhouses in London was double that of Paris … that it was astonishing to all Europe that Italian eunuchs and signoras should have set salaries equal to those of the Lords of the Treasury and Judges of England.’3 On this occasion nothing effectual was done, but soon after the theatre took a new form which was well calculated to alarm politicians. Fielding, following an example which had been set by Gay, made it the vehicle of political satire, and in his ‘Pasquin’ and his ‘Historical Register’ he ridiculed Walpole and the corruption at elections. Another play, called ‘The Golden Rump,’ submitted to the director of Lincoln's Inn Theatre and handed over by him to the minister, was said to have contained a bitter satire against the King and the reigning family. Walpole, relying on these, carried through Parliament in 1737 his Licensing Act, diminishing the number of playhouses, and at the same time authorising the Lord Chamberlain to prohibit any dramatic representation, and providing that no new play or addition to an old play could be acted if he had not first inspected it. The power of the Lord Chamberlain over the theatre was not a new thing, and it had very recently been exercised for the suppression of the sequel to the ‘Beggars’ Opera’ by Gay; but it had hitherto been undefined or very rarely employed, and the institution of an authorised and systematic censorship was opposed by Pulteney, and denounced with especial vehemence by Chesterfield, as the beginning of a crusade against the liberty of the press. Among the plays that were proscribed under the new system were the ‘Gustavus Vasa’ of Brooke, and the ‘Eleanora’ of Thomson; the rising fashion of political comedies was crushed, but in general the licensing power was employed with much moderation and simply in the interests of morality.1
By far the greatest dramatic success during the first half of the eighteenth century was the ‘Beggars’ Opera’ of Gay. It, for a time, as we have seen, ruined the Italian opera; and in one of the notes to the ‘Dunciad’ we have a curious picture of the enthusiasm it excited. It was acted in London without interruption for sixty-three days, and was received with equal applause in the following season. It was played fifty times in both Bristol and Bath. It spread rapidly through all the great towns of the kingdom, penetrated to Scotland and Wales, and was brilliantly successful in Ireland. Its favourite songs appeared on ladies’ fans and on drawing-room screens, and a hitherto obscure actress, by playing its principal part, became one of the most conspicuous and popular personages in the country. In general the prevailing taste in dramatic literature during the greater part of this period was very low. The great change which had passed over the social position of authors was peculiarly prejudicial to the drama, which consists in a great degree of sketches of the manners of society,1 and there was little or no demand for plays of a high order. Slight and coarse comedies, or gaudy spectacles with rope dancers and ballets, appear to have been in the greatest favour, and in more serious pieces the love of butchering, so characteristic of the English stage, was long a standing reproach among foreign crities.2 Masquerades were at this time extremely popular, and they had a considerable influence over theatrical taste. Heidegger organised them on a magnificent scale, and they were warmly patronised by the King, who was extremely angry with Bishop Gibson for denouncing them. In one celebrated masquerade the King was present in disguise, while the well-known maid of honour, Miss Chudleigh, scandalised all decent persons by appearing almost naked as Iphigenia.3 In 1755, after the earthquake of Lisbon, they were for a short time suppressed, lest they should call down a similar judgment upon London.4 The English form of pantomime, which is nearly related to this type of amusement, and which, after more than 150 years retains its popularity, was invented by Rich in 1717.5 For a few years after the Restoration the acting of Hart and Betterton in some degree supported Shakespeare upon the stage, but a change had taken place in the taste and in the manners of the nation, which made his plays appear barbarous or insipid. Even Dryden, who defended him, only ventured with some timidity to pronounce him to be equal, if not superior to Ben Jonson;6 and the depreciating or contemptuous language which Pepys employed about nearly every Shakespearian play7 that he witnessed probably reflected very fairly the sentiments of the average playgoer. Many of the greatest plays were soon completely banished from the stage, and the few which retained any popularity were re-written, printed under other names, or at least largely altered, reduced to a French standard of correctness, or enlivened with music and dancing. Thus ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was superseded by the ‘Caius Marius’ of Otway, ‘Measure for Measure’ by the ‘Law against Lovers’ of Davenant, the ‘Merry Wives of Windsor’ by Dennis's ‘Comical Gallant,’ ‘Richard II.’ by Tate's ‘Sicilian Tyrant,’ ‘Cymbeline’ by Durfey's ‘Injured Princess,’ ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by Lord Lansdowne's ‘Jew of Venice.’ ‘Macbeth’ was re-cast by Davenant, ‘Richard III.’ by Cibber, ‘The Tempest’ by both Davenant and Shadwell, ‘Coriolanus’ by Dennis, and ‘King Lear’ by Tate.1
The revolution of taste which gradually reinstated in his ascendancy the greatest writer of England, and perhaps of the world, and made his ideas and language familiar to the upper and middle classes of the nation, is certainly not less worthy of commemoration than any of the military or political incidents of the time. Its effect in educating the English mind can hardly be overrated, and its moral influence was very great. It was partly literary and partly dramatic. The first critical edition of Shakespeare was that of Rowe, which was published in 1709; and, before half the century had passed, it was followed by those of Pope, Theobald, Sir Thomas Hanmer, and Warburton. Dr. Johnson has noticed as a proof of the paucity of readers in the seventeenth century ‘that the nation had been satisfied from 1623 to 1664, that is, forty-one years, with only two editions of Shakespeare, which probably did not together make 1,000 copies.’2 By the middle of the eighteenth century, however, there had been thirteen editions, and of these, nine had appeared within the last forty years.3 It is obvious from this fact that the interest in Shakespeare was steadily increasing, and that the critical study of his plays was becoming with nothing good in it ‘besides the shows and processions.’ Macbeth he acknowledged was ‘a pretty good play.’ an important department of English literature; and he slowly reappeared in his unaltered form upon the stage. The merit of this revival has often been ascribed almost exclusively to Garrick, but in truth it had begun before, and was a natural reflection of the movement in literature. Six or seven years before the appearance of Garrick, some ladies of rank formed a ‘Shakespearian Club’ for the purpose of supporting by their presence or encouragement the best plays of Shakespeare.1 Soon after revivals became both frequent and successful. In 1737 ‘King John’ was revived at Covent Garden for the first time since the downfall of the stage. In 1738 the second part of ‘Henry IV.,’ ‘Henry V.,’ and the first part of ‘Henry VI.,’ no one of which had been acted for forty or fifty years, were brought upon the stage. In 1740 ‘As You Like It’ was reproduced after an eclipse of forty years, and had a considerable run. In February 1741 the ‘Merchant of Venice’ was produced in its original form for the first time after one hundred years, and Macklin excited the most enthusiastic applause by his representation of Shylock, who in Lord Lansdowne's version of the play had been reduced to insignificant proportions.2 In the same year the ‘Winter's Tale’ was revived after one hundred years, and ‘All's Well that Ends Well’ for the first time since the death of Shakespeare; and a monument of the great poet was erected in Westminster Abbey, paid for by the proceeds of special representations at the two great theatres.3 In the October of this year Garrick appeared for the first time on the London stage in the character of Richard III.4
The effects of the talent of a great actor are necessarily so extremely evanescent that it is impossible to compare with much confidence the merits of those who have long passed away. When, however, we consider the extraordinary versatility of the acting of Garrick, and the extraordinary impression which during a long series of years it made upon the most cultivated, as well as upon the most illiterate, it will appear probable that he has never been surpassed in his art—it is certain that he had never been equalled in England since the death of Betterton.1 The grandson of one of those refugees who had been expelled from France upon the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, he is another of the many instances of the benefits which England has indirectly derived from the intolerance of her neighbours; and in two respects his appearance on the stage has a real importance in the history of the English mind. He was before all things a Shakespearian actor, and he did more than any other single man to extend the popularity and increase the reputation of the great dramatist. He usually gave seventeen or eighteen plays of Shakespeare in a year.2 He brought out their beauties with all the skill of a consummate artist, and he at the same time produced a revolution in the art of acting very similar to that which Kent had effected in the art of gardening. A habit of slow, monotonous declamation, of unnatural pomp, and of a total disregard for historic truth in theatrical costume, had become general on the English stage, and the various and rapid intonations of Garrick, the careful and constant study of nature and of history which he displayed both in his acting and his accessories, had all the effect of novelty.3 It is worthy of notice that a similar change both in gardening and in acting took place in France a generation later, and was in a great degree due to the love of nature and the revolt against conventional forms, resulting from the writings of Rousseau. Garrick, like all innovators, had to encounter at first much opposition. Pope and Fielding were warmly in his favour, but the poet Gray declared himself ‘stiff in opposition.’ Horace Walpole professed himself unable to see the merit of the new performer. Cibber, who had been brought up in the school of Betterton, was equally contemptuous, and the leading actors took the same side. Macklin always spoke of him with the greatest bitterness. Quin, who had for some time held the foremost rank in tragedy, and whose ready wit made him a specially formidable opponent, said, ‘If the young fellow is right, I and the rest of the players have been all wrong;’ and he added, ‘Grarrick is a new religion—Whitefield was followed for a time—but they will all come to church again.’ Garrick answered in a happy epigram to the effect ‘that it was not heresy but reformation.’ In two or three characters Quin is said to have equalled him. The Othello of Garrick was a comparative failure, which was attributed to the dark colouring that concealed the wonderful play of his features,1 and Barry, owing to his rare personal advantages, was, in the opinion of many, superior as Romeo,2 but on the whole the supremacy of Grarrick was in a few months indisputable, and it continued unshaken during his whole career. At the same time his excellent character, his brilliant qualities, both as a writer and a talker, and the very considerable fortune that he speedily amassed, gave him a social position which had, probably, been attained by no previous actor. The calling of an actor had been degraded by ecclesiastical tradition, as well as by the gross immorality of the theatre of the Restoration. For some time, however, it had been steadily rising,3 and Garrick, while elevating incalculably the standard of theatrical taste, contributed also not a little to free his profession from the discredit under which it laboured. From the time of his first appearance upon the stage till the close of the careers of Kemble, of the elder Kean, and of Miss O'Neil, the English stage was never without some actors who might rank with the greatest on the Continent.
The old Puritanical and ecclesiastical hatred of the theatre had abated, but it was still occasionally shown. In Scotland it completely triumphed, and the attempts of Allan Ramsay and a few others to promote dramatic taste were almost completely abortive.1 In England, Collier not only censured the gross indecency and immorality of the stage with just severity, but he also contended that it was profane to employ any form of words which was ultimately derived from the Bible, even though it had long since passed into general usage, to use the word ‘martyr’ in any but its religious sense, to reflect, however slightly, on any priest, not only of a Christian but even of a Pagan creed. In 1719 Arthur Bedford, a chaplain to the Duke of Bedford, published a most curious work ‘Against the horrid Blasphemies and Impieties which are still used in English Playhouses.… showing their plain tendency to overthrow all piety, and advance the interest and honour of the devil in the world; from almost 7,000 instances taken out of the plays of the present century.’ He analysed with extraordinary minuteness the whole dramatic literature of the time, and declares that it offended against no less than 1,400 texts of the Bible. He accuses the playwriters, among other things, of restoring the Pagan worship by invoking or giving Divine titles to Cupid, Jupiter, Venus, Pluto, and Diana; of indirectly encouraging witchcraft or magic, ‘for by bewitching, magick, and enchanting, they only signify something which is most pleasant and desirable;’ of encouraging it directly and in the most blasphemous manner by such plays as ‘Macbeth’ or the ‘Tempest.’2 Like Collier, he finds it very criminal to place an immoral sentiment in the mouth of an immoral character, or a Pagan sentiment in the mouth of a Pagan speaker; and he was able to discover blasphemy even in the ‘Cato’ of Addison.1 About thirty years later, William Law published his well-known treatise ‘On the Absolute Unlawfulness of the Stage,’ in which he maintained that ‘the business of players is the most wicked and detestable profession in the world’; ‘that the playhouse, not only when some very profane play is on the stage, but in its daily, common entertainments, is as certainly the house of the devil as the church is the house of God;’ and that in going to the theatre ‘you are as certainly going to the devil's triumph as if you were going to those old sports where people committed murder and offered Christians to be devoured by wild beasts.’ In 1769, during the Shakespeare Jubilee, when Garrick was acting at Stratford-on-Avon, the populace of that town are said to have regarded him as a magician, and to have attributed to the vengeance of Heaven the heavy rains that fell during the festival.2 But, on the whole, the religious prejudice against the theatre in the first sixty years of the eighteenth century was probably much less strong than it afterwards became, through the influence of the Methodists and the Evangelicals. The strength which it at last acquired among large classes is much to be regretted. It has prevented an amusement which has added largely to the sum of human happiness, and which exercises a very considerable educational influence, from spreading anywhere except in the greatest centres of population. It has multiplied proportionately amusements of a far more frivolous and purely unintellectual character, and it has withdrawn from the audiences in the theatre the very classes whose presence would be the best guarantee of the habitual morality of the entertainment.
The decline of one other class of amusements must be briefly noticed, for it forms a curious page in the history of national manners. Up to the time of the Rebellion the baiting of animals, and especially of bulls and bears, was a favourite pastime with every class. Henry VIII., Mary, Elizabeth, and James I. had all encouraged it; but under Elizabeth the growing taste for theatrical representations had begun gradually to displace it, and to give a new ply and tone to the manners of the rich. All forms of amusement naturally fell into desuetude during the Civil War. All of them were suppressed during the Commonwealth, and it was probably some Puritan divines who first maintained in England the doctrine that it was criminal to make the combative or ferocious instincts of animals subservient to our pleasures.1 Motives of humanity had, however, in general little or nothing to say to the Puritanical proscription of these amusements, which, as Macaulay truly said, were condemned not because they gave pain to the animal, but because they gave pleasure to the spectators.2 When, however, they revived at the Restoration, the change of tastes that had taken place became apparent. The bear-garden was as popular as ever with the poor, but the upper classes had begun to desert it. In 1675 we find a Court exhibition before the Spanish Ambassador, and in 1681 the Ambassador of Morocco and the Duke of Albemarle witnessed a similar spectacle; but such entertainments were now becoming rare. Pepys and Evelyn speak of them as ‘rude and nasty pleasures,’ ‘butcherly sports, or rather barbarous cruelties’;3 and, although even in the last years of the seventeenth century we find a writer on this subject asserting that bullbaiting ‘is a sport the English much delight in, and not only the baser sort but the greatest lords and ladies,’1 it is clear that the stream of fashion had decidedly turned. In the beginning of the eighteenth century the essay-writers who exercised so great an influence on the minor morals of society, steadily discountenanced these amusements; and we may at this period find several slight, but clear traces of a warmer regard for the sufferings of the lower animals. Steele speaks of the bear-garden as a place ‘where reason and good manners had no right to enter,’ and both he and Pope wrote in the strongest terms against cruelty to animals, and especially against the English passion for brutal amusements.2
The practice of vivisection, which is at all times liable to grave abuse, and which, before the introduction of anæsthetics, was often inexpressibly horrible, appears to have been very common.3 Bacon had recommended inquirers to turn their attention in this direction; and the great discovery, partly through its means, of the circulation of the blood, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, had brought it into fashion; but Pope spoke of it with extreme detestation,4 and Johnson, several years later, dwelt with just indignation upon the useless barbarities of which some medical students were guilty.5 The poems of Gay are animated by a remarkable feeling of compassion for animals,1 and the Duke of Montague is said to have established a home for them, and to have exerted his influence as a great landlord warmly in their favour.2
At the same time the change was only in a small section of the community. Bear-baiting, when it ceased to be an amusement of the rich, speedily declined because of the scarcity of the animals, but bull-baiting through the whole of the eighteenth century was a popular English amusement. In Queen Anne's time it was performed in London at Hockley Hole, regularly twice a week,3 and there was no provincial town to which it did not extend. It was regarded on the Continent as peculiarly English. The tenacity of the English bull-dog, which would sometimes suffer itself to be cut to pieces rather than relax its hold, was a favourite subject of national boasting, while French writers pointed to the marked difference in this respect between the French and English taste as a conclusive proof of the higher civilisation of their own nation.4 Among those who at a late period patronised or defended bull-baiting were Windham and Parr; and even Canning and Peel opposed the measure for its abolition by law. At Stamford and at Tutbury a maddened bull was, from a very early period, annually hunted through the streets. Among the entertainments advertised in London in 1729 and 1730, we find ‘a mad bull to be dressed up with fire-works and turned loose in the game place, a dog to be dressed up with fireworks over him, a bear to be let loose at the same time, and a cat to be tied to the bull's tail, a mad bull dressed up with fireworks to be baited.’1 Such amusements were mingled with prize-fighting, boxing matches between women, or combats with quarter-staffs or broadswords. Ducking ponds, in which ducks were hunted by dogs, were favourite popular resorts around London, especially those in St. George's Fields, the present site of Bethlehem Hospital. Sometimes the amusement was varied, and an owl was tied to the back of the duck, which dived in terror till one or both birds were killed. The very barbarous amusement of cock-throwing, which was at least as old as Chaucer, and in which Sir T. More when a young man had been especially expert, is said to have been peculiarly English.2 It consisted of tying a cock to a stake as a mark for sticks, which were thrown at it from a distance till it was killed; and it was ascribed to the English antipathy to the French, who were symbolised by that bird.3 The old Greek game of cock-fighting was also extremely popular in England. It was a favourite game of schoolboys, who, from the time of Henry II. till the latter part of the eighteenth century, were accustomed almost universally to practise it on Shrove Tuesday; and in many schools in Scotland the runaway cocks were claimed by the masters as their perquisites. A curious account is preserved of the parish of Applecross in Ross-shire, written about 1790, in which among the different sources of the schoolmaster's income we find ‘cock-fight dues, which are equal to one quarter's payment for each scholar.’4 Henry VIII. built a cock-pit at Whitehall; and James I. was accustomed to divert himself with cock-fighting twice a week. In the eighteenth century it appears to have rather increased than diminished, and being the occasion of great gambling it retained its place among very fashionable amusements; nor does it appear to have been generally regarded as more inhuman than hunting, coursing, or shooting. It was introduced into Scotland at the close of the seventeenth or the beginning of the eighteenth century by a fencing master named Machrie, who seems to have been looked upon as a benefactor to Scotland for having started a new, cheap, and innocent amusement. He wrote, in 1705, ‘An Essay on the Innocent and Royal Recreation and Art of Cocking,’ in which he expressed his hope that ‘in cock-war village may be engaged against village, city against city, kingdom against kingdom, nay, the father against the son, until all the wars of Europe, wherein so much innocent Christian blood is spilt, be turned into the innocent pastime of cocking.’1 The fiercest and most powerful cocks were frequently brought over from Germany; and the Welsh main, which was the most sanguinary form of the amusement, appears to have been exclusively English, and of modern origin. In this game as many as sixteen cocks were sometimes matched against each other at each side, and they fought till all on one side were killed. The victors were then divided and fought, and the process was repeated till but a single cock remained. County engaged county in cocking matches, and the church bells are said to have been sometimes rung in honour of the victor in the Welsh main.2
The passion for inland watering-places was at its height. Bath, under the long rule of Beau Nash, fully maintained its old ascendancy, and is said to have been annually visited by more than 8,000 families. Anstey, in one of the most brilliant satirical poems of the eighteenth century, painted, with inimitable skill, its follies and its tastes; and the arbitrary but not unskilful sway and self-important manners, of its great master of the ceremonies, were widely celebrated in verse and prose. Among the commands which he issued there is one which is well worthy of a passing notice. Between 1720 and 1730 it was observed that young men of fashion in London had begun in their morning walks to lay aside their swords, which were hitherto looked upon as the indispensable signs of a gentleman, and to carry walking-sticks instead. Beau Nash made a great step in the same direction by absolutely prohibiting swords within his dominions, and this was, perhaps, the beginning of a change of fashion which appears to have been general about 1780, and which has a real historical importance as reflecting and sustaining the pacific habits that were growing in society.1 In addition to Bath, Tunbridge Wells, Epsom, Buxton, and the more modest Islington retained their popularity, and a new rival was rising into note. The mineral springs of Cheltenham were discovered about 1730, and in 1738 a regular Spa was built. But soon after the middle of the century a great and sudden change took place. Up to this time there is scarcely a record of sea-bathing in England, but in 1750 Dr. Richard Russell published in Latin his treatise ‘On glandular consumption, and the use of sea-water in diseases of the glands.’ It was translated in 1753. The new remedy acquired an extraordinary popularity, and it produced a great, permanent, and on the whole very beneficial change in the national tastes. In a few years obscure fishing-villages along the coast began to assume the dimensions of stately watering places, and before the century had closed Cowper described, in indignant lines, the common enthusiasm with which all ages and classes rushed for health or pleasure to the sea.2
There was not, I think, any other change in the history of manners during the first sixty years of the eighteenth century, so considerable as to call for extended notice in a work like the present. The refinements of civilisation advanced by slow and almost insensible degrees into country life as the improvements of roads increased the facilities of locomotion, and as the growth of provincial towns and of a provincial press multiplied the centres of intellectual and political activity. In these respects, however, the latter half of the century was a far more memorable period than the former half; and the history of roads, which I have not yet noticed, will be more conveniently considered in a future chapter. The manners and tastes of the country gentry were often to the last degree coarse and illiterate, but the large amount of public business that in England has always been thrown upon the class, maintained among them no contemptible level of practical intelligence; and some circulation of intellectual life was secured by the cathedral towns, the inland watering-places, and the periodical migrations of the richer members to London or Bath. The yeomanry class, also, as long as they existed in considerable numbers, maintained a spirit of independence in country life which extended even to the meanest ploughman, and had some influence both in stimulating the faculties, and restraining the despotism of the country magistrates.1 Whatever may have been the defects of the English country gentry, agriculture under their direction had certainly attained a much higher perfection than in France,2 and though narrow-minded and intensely prejudiced, they formed an upright, energetic, and patriotic element in English public life. The well-known pictures of Sir Roger de Coverley and of Squire Western exhibit in strong lights their merits and their faults, and the contrast between rural and metropolitan manners was long one of the favourite subjects of the essayists. That contrast, however, was rapidly diminishing. In the first half of the eighteenth century, the habit of making annual visits to London or to a watering-place very greatly increased, and it contributed at once to soften the manners of the richer and to accelerate the disappearance of the poorer members of the class. A scale and rivalry of luxury passed into country life which made the position of the small landlord completely untenable. At the beginning of the century there still existed in England numerous landowners with estates of 200l. or 300l. a year. The descendants in many cases of the ancient yeomen, they ranked socially with the gentry. They possessed to the full extent the pride and prejudices, and discharged very efficiently many of the duties of the class; but they lived exclusively in the country, their whole lives were occupied with country business or country sports, their travels rarely or never extended beyond the nearest county town, and in tastes, in knowledge, and in language they scarcely differed from the tenant-farmer. From the early years of the eighteenth century this class began rapidly to diminish, and before the close of the century it was almost extinct.1 Though still vehement Tories, full of zeal for the Church and of hatred of Dissenters and foreigners, the Jacobitism of the country gentry had subsided during the reign of George II., and they gave the Pretender no assistance in 1745. Their chief vice was hard-drinking.2 Their favourite occupations were field sports. These amusements, though they somewhat changed their character, do not appear to have at all diminished during the first half of the eighteenth century, and it was in this period that Gay, and especially Somerville, published the most considerable sporting poems in the language. Hawking, which had been extremely popular in the beginning of the seventeenth century, and which was a favourite sport of Charles II., almost disappeared in the beginning of the eighteenth century. Stag-hunting declined with the spread of agriculture, but hare-hunting held its ground, and fox-hunting greatly increased. Cricket, which would occupy a distinguished place in any modern picture of English manners, had apparently but just arisen. The earliest notice of it, discovered by an antiquary who has devoted much research to the history of amusements, is in one of D'Urfey's songs, written in the beginning of the century.1 It was mentioned as one of the amusements of Londoners by Strype in his edition of Stow's ‘Survey’ published in 1720, and towards the close of the century it greatly increased.
There had been loud complaints ever since the Revolution, both in the country and in the towns, of the rapid rise of the poor-rates, but it seems to have been due, much less to any growth of real poverty than to improvident administration and to the dissipated habits that were generated by the poor-laws. Although the controversy on the subject of these laws did not come to a climax till long after the period we are now considering, the great moral and economical evils resulting from them were clearly seen by the most acute thinkers. Among others, Locke, in a report which he drew up in 1697, anticipating something of the later reasoning of Malthus, pointed out forcibly the danger to the country from the great increase of able-bodied pauperism, and attributed it mainly, if not exclusively, to ‘the relaxation of discipline and the corruption of manners.’ The annual rates in the last thirty years of the seventeenth century were variously estimated at from 600,000l. to 840,000l. They rose before the end of the reign of Anne to at least a million. They again sank for a time after an Act, which was carried in 1723, for founding workhouses and imposing a more severe discipline on paupers, but they soon regained their ascending movement and continued steadily to increase during the remainder of the century. Popular education and the rapid growth of manufacturing wages had not yet produced that high type of capacity and knowledge which is now found among the skilled artisans of the great towns, but the broad lines of the English industrial character were clearly discernible. Probably no workman in Europe could equal the Englishman in physical strength, in sustained power and energy of work, and few, if any, could surpass him in thoroughness and fidelity in the performance of his task and in general rectitude and honesty of character. On the other hand, he was far inferior to most Continental workmen in those branches of labour which depended on taste and on delicacy of touch, and most industries of this kind passed into the hands of refugees. His requirements were much greater than those of the Continental workman. In habits of providence and of economy he ranked extremely low in the industrial scale; his relaxations usually took the form of drunkenness or brutal sports, and he was rather peculiarly addicted to riot and violence. An attempt to estimate with any precision the position of the different classes engaged in agriculture or manufacturing industry is very difficult, not only on account of the paucity of evidence we possess, but also on account of the many different and fluctuating elements that have to be considered. The prosperity of a class is a relative term, and we must judge it not only by comparing the condition of the same class in different countries and in different times, but also by comparing it with that of the other sections of society. The value of money has greatly changed,1 but the change has not been uniform; it has been counteracted by other influences; it applies much more to some articles of consumption than to others, and therefore affects very unequally the different classes in the community. Thus the price of wheat in the seventy years that followed the Revolution was not very materially different from what it now is, and during the first half of the eighteenth century it, on the whole, slightly declined. At the time of the Revolution it was a little under 41s. a quarter. During the ten years ending in 1705 it was about 43s., in the ten ending in 1715 it was about 44l.; in the twenty ending in 1735 about 35s.; in the ten ending in 1745 about 32s.; and in the ten ending in 1755 about 33s. The price of meat, on the other hand, was far less than at present. The average price of mutton throughout England from 1706 to 1730 is stated to have been 2 1/2d. a pound. From 1730 to 1760 it had risen to 3d. a pound. The price of beef, from 1740 to 1760, is said to have been 2 1/2d. a pound. Pork, veal, and lamb, as well as beer, were proportionately cheap.1 We must remember, too, in estimating the condition of British labourers, that besides their wages they had the advantage of an immense extent of common land. Nearly every village had still around it a large space of unenclosed and uncultivated ground on which the cows, sheep, and geese of the poor found an ample pasture.
The different parts of England differed widely in prosperity, the counties surrounding London, and generally the southern half of the island, being by far the most flourishing, while the northern parts, and especially the counties bordering on Scotland, were the most poor. There can be no doubt that in the former, at least, the condition of the English labourer was much more prosperous than that which was general in the same class on the Continent. Gregory King, in his very valuable estimate of ‘the state and condition of England’ in 1696, has calculated that, out of a population of about 5,500,000, about 2,700,000 ate meat daily, and that, of the remaining 2,800,000, 1,540,000 ate meat at least twice a week, while 240,000 were either sick persons or infants under thirteen months old. There remained 1,020,000 persons ‘who receive alms, and consequently eat not flesh above once a week.’ It would appear from this estimate that the whole population eat meat at least once a week and all healthy adults, who were not paupers, more than once;2 while the gigantic consumption of beer, to which I have already referred, makes it almost certain that this was the common beverage of all classes. The same writer makes a curious attempt to estimate the average incomes of families in the different classes of society in 1688. That of the temporal lords he places at 2,800l. That of baronets, at 880l.; that of esquires and of other gentlemen respectively at 450l. and 280l.; that of shopkeepers and tradesmen at 45l.; that of artisans and handicrafts at 40l.; that of labouring people and out-servants at 15l.; that of common soldiers at 14l.; that of cottagers and paupers at 6l. 10s. The average annual incomes of all classes he reckoned at 32l. a family, or 7l. 18s. a head. In France he calculated that the average annual income was 6l. a head, and in Holland 8l. 1s. 4d. From a careful comparison of the food of the different nations he calculated that the English annually spent on food, on an average, 3l. 16s. 5d. a head; the French, 2l. 16s. 2d.; the Dutch, 2l. 16s. 5d.1
Such estimates can, of course, only be accepted with much reservation; but they are the judgments of a very acute contemporary observer, and they are, no doubt, sufficiently accurate to enable us to form a fair general conception of the relative proportions. In 1704 an abortive attempt which was made to extend the system of poor-law relief produced the ‘Giving Alms no Charity,’ one of the most admirable of the many excellent tracts of Defoe. No man then living was a shrewder or more practical observer, and he has collected many facts which throw a vivid light on the condition of the labouring poor. He states that although in Yorkshire, and generally in the bishopric of Durham, a labourer's weekly wages might be only 4s., yet in Kent and in several of the southern and western counties agricultural weekly wages were 7s., 9s., and even 10s. He mentions the case of a tilemaker, to whom he had for several years paid from 16s. to 20s. a week, and states that journeymen weavers could earn from 15s. to 20s. a week. The pauperism of the country he ascribes not to any want of employment, but almost wholly to habits of vagrancy, drunkenness, and extravagance. ‘I affirm,’ he says, ‘of my own knowledge, that when I wanted a man for labouring work, and offered 9s. per week to strolling fellows at my door, they have frequently told me to my face that they could get more a-begging.’ ‘Good husbandry,’ he adds, ‘is no English virtue … it neither loves, nor is beloved by, an Englishman. The English get estates and the Dutch save them; and this observation I have made between foreigners and Englishmen—that where an Englishman earns his 20s. a week, and but just lives, as we call it, a Dutchman grows rich, and leaves his children in very good condition. Where an English labouring man, with his 9s. a week, lives wretchedly and poor, a Dutchman, with that wages, will live tolerably well.… We are the most lazy, diligent nation in the world. There is nothing more frequent than for an Englishman to work till he has got his pockets full of money, and then go and be idle, or perhaps drunk, till it is all gone, and perhaps himself in debt; and ask him, in his cups, what he intends, he'll tell you honestly he will drink as long as it lasts, and then go to work for more. I make no difficulty to promise, on a short summons, to produce above a thousand families in England, within my particular knowledge, who go in rags, and their children wanting bread, whose fathers can earn their 15s. to 25s. a week, but will not work.… The reason why so many pretend to want work is that, as they can live so well on the pretence of wanting work, they would be mad to have it and work in earnest.’ He maintains that wages in England were higher than in any other country in Europe, that hands and not employment were wanting, and that the condition of the labour market was clearly shown by the impossibility of obtaining a sufficient number of recruits for the army, without resorting to the press-gang. When, a few years later, the commercial treaty between France and England was discussed, one of the strongest arguments of its opponents was the danger of French competition, on account of the much greater cheapness of French labour. ‘The French,’ said one of the writers in the ‘British Merchant,’ ‘did always outdo us in the price of labour; their common people live upon roots, cabbage, and other herbage; four of their large provinces subsist entirely upon chestnuts, and the best of them eat bread made of barley, millet, Turkey and black corn … they generally drink nothing but water, and at best a sort of liquor they call beuverage (which is water passed through the husks of grapes after the wine is drawn off); they save a great deal upon that account, for it is well known that our people spend half of their money in drink.’1
As far as we are able to judge from the few scattered facts that are preserved, the position of the poor seems on the whole to have steadily improved in the long pacific period during the reigns of George I. and George II. It was at this time that wheat bread began to supersede, among the labouring classes, bread made of rye, barley, or oats, and the rate of wages slightly advanced without any corresponding, or at least equivalent, rise in the price of the articles of first necessity. When Arthur Young investigated the agricultural condition of the southern counties in 1768, he found that the average weekly rate of agricultural wages for the whole year round, was 10s. 9d. within 20 miles of London; 7s. 8d. at a distance of from 20 to 60 miles from London; 6s. 4d. at from 60 to 110 miles from London; 6s. 3d. at from 110 to 170 miles. The highest wages were in the eastern counties, the lowest in the western counties, and especially in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. In some parts of these he found that the agricultural wages were not higher than 4s. 6d. in winter and 6s. in summer. In the north of England, which he described in 1770, he found that agricultural wages, for the whole year, ranged from 4s. 11d. to 9s. 9d., the average being 7s. 1d. Within 300 miles to the north of London, the average rate in different districts varied only from 6s. 9d. to 7s. 2d.; but beyond that distance it fell to 5s. 8d. Twenty years later, the same admirable observer, after a detailed examination of the comparative condition of the labouring classes in England and France, pronounced agricultural wages in the latter country to be 76 per cent. lower than in England, and he has left a most emphatic testimony to the enormous superiority in well-being of the English labourer.1
One change, however, was taking place which was, on the whole, to his disadvantage. It was inevitable that with the progress of agriculture the vast acts of common land scattered over England should be reclaimed and enclosed, and it was almost equally inevitable that the permanent advantage derived from them should be reaped by the surrounding landlords. Clauses were, it is true, inserted in most Enclosure Bills providing compensation for those who had common rights; and the mere increase of the net produce of the soil had some effect in raising the price of labour; but the main and enduring benefits of the enclosures necessarily remained with those in whose properties the common land was incorporated, and by whose capital it was fructified. After a few generations the right of free pasture, which the English peasant had formerly enjoyed, had passed away, while the compensation he had received was long since dissipated. The great movement for enclosing common land belongs chiefly to the reign of George III., but it had begun on a large scale under his predecessor. Only two Enclosure Acts had been passed under Anne, and only sixteen under George I. Under George II. there were no less than 226, and more than 318,000 acres were enclosed.1
Though the population of London was little more than a seventh of what it now is, the magnitude of the city relatively to the other towns of the kingdom was much greater than at present. Under the Tudors and the Stuarts many attempts had been made to check its growth by proclamations forbidding the erection of new houses, or the entertaining of additional inmates, and peremptorily enjoining the country gentry to return to their homes in order ‘to perform the duties of their several charges.… to be a comfort unto their neighbours.… to renew and revive hospitality in their respective counties.’ Many proclamations of this kind had been issued during the first half of the seventeenth century, but the last occasion in which the royal prerogative was exercised to prevent the extension of London beyond its ancient limits appears to have been in 1674.2 From that time its progress was unimpeded, and Davenant in 1685 combated the prevalent notion that it was an evil.3 The cities of London and Westminster, which had originally been far apart, were fully joined in the early years of the seventeenth century, partly, it is said, through the great number of Scotch who came to London on the accession of James I., and settled chiefly along the Strand.4 The quarter now occupied by St. James's Square, Pall Mall, St. James's Street, and Arlington Street, was pasture land till about 1680. Evelyn, writing in 1684, stated that London had nearly doubled in his own recollection;5 but in the beginning of the eighteenth century Hackney, Newington, Marylebone, Islington, Chelsea, and Kensington were still rural villages, far removed from the metropolis. Marylebone, which was probably the nearest, was separated from it by a full mile of fields. The growth of London in the first half of the eighteenth century appears to have been chiefly in the direction of Deptford, Hackney, and Bloomsbury. It spread also on the southern bank of the Thames after the building of Westminster Bridge in 1736, and especially in the quarter of the rich, which was extending steadily towards the west. Horace Walpole mentions that when, in the reign of Charles II., Lord Burlington built his great house in Piccadilly, he was asked why he placed it so far out of town, and he answered, because he was determined to have no building beyond him. In little more than half a century Burlington House was so enclosed with new streets that it was in the heart of the west end of London.1 In the reign of Queen Anne, the most fashionable quarters were Bloomsbury Square, Lincoln's Inn Fields, Soho Square, and Queen's Square, Westminster. In the reign of George II. they included Leicester Fields, Golden Square, and Charing Cross. Pall Mall, till the middle of the century, was a fashionable promenade. Among other amusements, smock-racing by women was kept up there till 1733.2
The great nobles whose houses once fringed the Strand generally moved westward. Cavendish, Hanover, and Grosvenor Squares, as well as New Bond Street, the upper part of Piccadilly, the greater part of Oxford Street, and many contiguous streets were built in the first half of the eighteenth century; but Portman Square was not erected till about 1764, nor Berkeley Square till 1798. On the present site of Curzon Street and of the adjoining streets, May fair, with, one short interruption, was annually celebrated till 1756. It lasted for six weeks, and did much to demoralise the neighbourhood, which was also greatly injured by the crowds of ruffians who passed through that quarter to witness the frequent executions at Tyburn. In 1748 we find Chesterfield, whose house stood near the border of May fair, complaining bitterly that the neighbouring district was full of thieves and murderers.3 It appears from a map of London, published in 1733,4 that there then were no houses to the north of Oxford Street, except the new quarter of Cavendish Square which formed a small promontory bounded by Marylebone Street on the north and by Oxford Street on the south, and extending from Vere Street on the west to near the site which is now occupied by Portland Road. Moving on eastward the northern frontier line of London touched Montague House, now the British Museum. It then gradually ascended, passed a few lanes to the north of Clerkenwell Green, and finally reached Hoxton, which was connected by some scattered houses with the metropolis. To the east, London stretched far into White-chapel Street, Ratcliffe Highway, and Wapping, which, however, were divided from one another by large open spaces. To the west the new quarter of Grosvenor Square extended close to Hyde Park, and there were also a few houses clustered about Hyde Park Corner, but most of the space between Grosvenor Square and what is now called Piccadilly1 was open ground. Along the Westminster bank of the river the town reached as far as the Horseferry opposite Lambeth. London Bridge was still the only bridge across the Thames, and the only considerable quarter on the southern side of the river was in its neighbourhood. Except a few scattered villages, open fields extended over all the ground which is now occupied by the crowded thoroughfares of Belgravia, Chelsea, and Kensington, and by the many square miles of houses which stretch along the north of London from St. John's Wood to Hackney.
No less than eight parishes were added between the Revolution and the death of George II.,2 and many signs indicate the rapid extension of the town. The number of hackney coaches authorised in London, which was only 200 in 1652, was 800 in 1715,3 and the number of sedan chairs was raised from 200 in 1694 to 400 in 1726.4 A traveller noticed, about 1724, that while in Paris, Brussels, Rome, and Vienna, coaches could only be hired by the day, or at least by the hour, in London they stood at the corner of every street.5 The old water-supply being found inadequate for the wants of the new western quarter, a company was founded in 1722, and a reservoir formed in Hyde Park.6 Above all, in 1711 a most important step was taken in the interests of civilisation by the full organisation of a London penny post.1 Great progress was made, as we have already seen, in the first half of the eighteenth century in lighting the streets and protecting the passengers, but very little was done to embellish the city. The pavement was scandalously inferior to that of the great towns of the Continent, while the projecting gutters from the roofs of the houses made the streets almost impassable in the rain, and it was not until the first years of George III. that these evils were remedied by law.2 Architectural taste during the ascendancy of Vanbrugh was extremely low, and it is worthy of note that the badness of the bricks employed in building, which has been represented as a peculiar characteristic of the workmanship of the present generation, was already a matter of frequent complaint.3
The London season extended from October to May, leaving four months during which the theatres were closed and all forms of dissipation suspended.4 In the middle of the eighteenth century London was still unable to boast of any public gallery of ancient pictures or of any exhibition of the works of modern artists. The British Museum was not yet formed. Zoological Gardens were still unknown, and there was nothing of that variety of collections which is so conspicuous a feature of the present century. At the Tower, it is true, there had for centuries been a collection of wild animals, which many generations of country visitors regarded as so pre-eminent among the sights of London that it has even left its trace upon the language. The lions of the Tower are the origin of that application of the term ‘lion’ to any conspicuous spectacle or personage, which has long since become universal. A much larger proportion of amusements than at present were carried on in the open air. Besides the popular gatherings of May fair, Bartholomew fair, and Southwark fair, there were the public gardens of Vauxhall and of Ranelagh, which occupy so prominent a place in the pictures of fashionable life by Fielding, Walpole, Goldsmith, Lady W. Montagu, and Miss Burney, and also the less famous entertainments of Marylebone Gardens, and of Cuper's Gardens on the Lambeth side of the Thames. Vauxhall dated from the middle of the seventeenth century, but Ranelagh Gardens, which occupied part of the present site of the gardens of Chelsea Hospital, were only opened in 1742. Coffee-houses, though apparently less conspicuous centres of news, politics, and fashion than they had been under Anne, were still very numerous. At the present day every traveller is struck with the almost complete absence in London of this element of Continental life, but in the early years of the eighteenth century coffee-houses were probably more prominent in London than in any other city in Europe. A writer who described the metropolis in 1708, not much more than fifty years after the first coffeehouse had been established in England, estimated the number of these institutions at nearly 3,000.1
The fashionable hours were becoming steadily later. Colley Cibber, in describing the popularity of Kynaston, a favourite actor of female parts under Charles II., mentions that ladies of quality were accustomed to take him with them in their coaches to Hyde Park in his theatrical habit after the play, which they could then do, as the play began at four o'clock.2 ‘The landmarks of our fathers,’ wrote Steele in 1710, ‘are removed, and planted further up in the day … in my own memory the dinner hour has crept by degrees from twelve o'clock to three. Where it will fix nobody knows.’3 In the reign of George II. the most fashionable dinner hour appears to have been four. The habits of all classes were becoming less simple. Defoe noticed that within the memory of men still living the apprentices of shopkeepers and warehousemen habitually served the families of their masters at table, and discharged other menial functions which in the reign of George I. they would have indignantly spurned.1 The merchants who had hitherto lived in the city near their counting-houses, began, early in the eighteenth century, to migrate to other quarters, though they at first seldom went further than Hatton Garden.2 Domestic service was extremely disorganised. Almost all the complaints on this subject, which in our own day we hear upon every side and which are often cited as conclusive proofs of the degeneracy of the English people, were quite as loud and as emphatic a hundred and fifty years ago as at present. It was said that while no servants in Europe were so highly paid or so well fed as the English, none were so insolent, exacting, or nomadic, that the tie of affection between master and servant was completely broken, that on the smallest provocation or at the hope of the smallest increase of wages, or still more of vales, the servant threw up his place, and that no other single cause contributed so largely to the discomfort of families. Servants had their clubs, and their societies for maintaining each other when out of place, and they copied only too faithfully the follies and the vices of their masters. There were bitter complaints of how they wore their masters’ clothes and assumed their masters’ names, how there were in liveries ‘beaux, fops, and coxcombs, in as high perfection as among people that kept equipages,’ how near the entrance of the law-courts and the Parliament, a host of servants kept up ‘such riotous clamour and licentious confusion’ that ‘one would think there were no such thing as rule or distinction among us.’3 In the theatres especially they were a constant source of disturbance. It was the custom of the upper classes to send their footmen before them to keep their places during the first acts of the play, and they afterwards usually retired to the upper gallery, to which they claimed the right of free admission. Their constant disorder led to their expulsion from Drury Lane theatre in 1737, which they resented by a furious riot. The presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales was unable to allay the storm, and order was not restored till twenty-five or twenty-six persons had been seriously injured.1
This state of things was the natural consequence of luxurious and ostentatious habits, acting upon a national character by no means peculiarly adapted to domestic service. There were, however, also several special causes at work, which made the condition of domestic service a great national evil. The most conspicuous were the custom of placing servants on board wages, which was very prevalent in the beginning of the century, and which encouraged them to frequent clubs and taverns; the constant attendance of servants upon their mistresses in the great scenes of fashionable dissipation; the law which communicated to the servants of peers and Members of Parliament the immunity from arrest for debt enjoyed by their masters; and, above all, the system of vales, which made servants in a great degree independent of their masters. This system had been carried in England to an extent unparalleled in Europe; and the great prominence given to it in the literature of the early half of the eighteenth century shows how widespread and demoralising it had become. When dining with his nearest relation a gentleman was expected to pay the servants who attended him, and no one of small fortune could accept many invitations from a great nobleman, on account of the large sums which had to be distributed among the numerous domestics. No feature of English life seemed more revolting or astonishing to foreigners than an English entertainment where the guests, often under the eyes of the host, passed from the drawing-room through a double row of footmen, each one of them expecting and receiving his fee. It was said that a foreign minister, dining on a great occasion with a nobleman of the highest rank, usually expended in this way as much as ten guineas, that a sum of two or three guineas was a common expenditure in great houses, and that a poor clergyman, invited to dine with his bishop, not unfrequently spent in vales to the servants, at a single dinner, more than would have fed his family for a week. Dr. King tells a story of a poor nobleman who in Queen Anne's time was an intimate friend of the Duke of Ormond, and who regularly received a guinea with every invitation, for distribution among the servants of his host. The effect of this system in weakening the authority of masters, and in demoralising servants, was universally recognised, and soon after the middle of the century a great movement arose to abolish it, the servants being compensated by a higher rate of wages. The movement began among the gentry of Scotland. The grand jury of Northumberland and the grand jury of Wiltshire followed the example, pledging themselves to discourage the system of vales, but many years still elapsed before it was finally eradicated.1
Of the sanitary condition of the city it is extremely difficult to speak with confidence. There is reason to believe that cleanliness and good ventilation had greatly increased,2 and in at least one respect a marked improvement of the national health had recently taken place. The plague of London was not a single or isolated outburst. It had been chronic in London during the whole of the seventeenth century, and though greatly diminished had not been extirpated by the fire. By the beginning of the eighteenth century it completely disappeared, and it was noticed that from this time the deaths from colic and dysentery decreased with an extraordinary rapidity. In each successive decennial period in the first half of the eighteenth century the annual average of deaths from this source was much less than in the preceding one, and the average in the last decennial period is said to have been little more than a tenth of what it had been in the first one.1 The statistics, however, both of disease and of population, were so fluctuating and so uncertain that it is rash to base much upon them. It appears, however, evident that the mortality of the towns as compared with the country, and the mortality of infants as compared with adults, were considerably greater than at present,2 and also that the population of London in the second quarter of the century, if it did not, as was often said, absolutely decrease, at least advanced much less rapidly than in the first quarter. The great spread of gin-drinking was followed both by a serious diminution in the number of births, and by a great increase in the number of deaths, and was, no doubt, regarded, with justice, as the chief enemy of the public health.3 Medical science had been some-what improved, but the practice of lowering the constitution by excessive bleedings was so general that it may be questioned whether on the whole it did not kill more than it cured. The great progress of botany had, as was natural, some effect upon it. A garden of medical plants was created at Chelsea by the Company of Apothecaries as early as 1673, and it was greatly improved in the early years of the eighteenth century, chiefly by the instrumentality of Sir Hans Sloane. This very remarkable man was almost equally distinguished as a physician and as a botanist, and among other services to medicine he greatly extended the use of Peruvian bark.1 A still more important fact in the history of English medicine was the increased study of anatomy. The popular prejudice against dissection which had for centuries paralysed and almost prevented this study study ran so high in England that in spite of the number of capital punishments, it was only with great difficulty the civil power could accommodate surgeons with proper subjects, and all publicity was studiously avoided. No English artist, unless he desired to hold up to abhorrence the persons whose portraits he drew, would have painted such a subject as the famous study of anatomy by Rembrandt. With such a state of feeling it is not surprising that the English medical school, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, should have been far inferior to that which gathered round the chair of Boerhaave at Leyden. In the reign of Queen Anne, however, a French refugee surgeon, named Bussière, began for the first time to give public lectures on anatomy in England, and the example was speedily followed by two anatomists of great ability.2 Cheselden commenced, in 1711, a series of lectures on anatomy, which continued for twenty years. The first Monro opened a similar course at Edinburgh in 1719, and a school of medicine arose in that city which in the latter part of the century had no superior in Europe. The passion for anatomy was shown in the illegal efforts made to obtain bodies for dissection; and Shenstone in one of his elegies, complains bitterly of the frequent violation of the tomb.1
In the first half of the eighteenth century also the first serious attempt was made to restrain the small-pox, which had long been one of the greatest scourges of Europe. Inoculation, as is well known, was introduced into England from Turkey by Lady Mary Montagu, and by Dr. Maitland, the physician of the Embassy, and the son of the former, afterwards the famous traveller, was the first English subject who was inoculated. On her return to England in 1722, Lady Mary Montagu laboured earnestly to propagate the system, and the Princess of Wales, afterwards Queen Caroline, whose mind was always open to new ideas and who exhibited no small courage in carrying them out, at once perceived the importance of the discovery. She obtained permission to have the experiment tried on five criminals who had been condemned to death, and who were pardoned on condition of undergoing it. In four cases it was perfectly successful, and the remaining criminal confessed that she had had the disease when a child.
The physicians, however, at first generally discouraged the practice. Popular feeling was vehemently roused against it, and some theologians denounced it as tempting Providence by artificially superinducing disease, endeavouring to counteract a Divine visitation, and imitating the action of the devil, who caused boils to break out upon the body of Job. Sir Hans Sloane, however, fully recognised the value of inoculation, and the Princess of Wales had two of her children inoculated in the very beginning of the movement. This act exposed her to no little obloquy, but it had some effect in encouraging the practice, and the adhesion of Madox, the Bishop of Worcester, was useful in counteracting the theological prejudice it had aroused. Still for some years it advanced very slowly. Only 845 persons were inoculated in England in the eight years that followed its introduction, and it seemed likely altogether to die out when news arrived that some of the planters in the West Indies had made use of it for their slaves with complete success. From this time the tide turned. In 1746 a small-pox hospital was founded in London for the purpose of inoculation, and in 1754 the College of Physicians pronounced in its favour. It had, however, long to struggle against a violent prejudice in the country, and as late as 1765 only 6,000 persons had been inoculated in Scotland.
This prejudice was less unreasonable than has been supposed. Though some patients died from inoculation, its efficacy in securing those who underwent the operation from one of the most deadly of diseases was unquestionable. It was, however, only very partially practised, and as its object was to produce in the patient the disease in a mitigated form, it had the effect of greatly multiplying centres of infection, and thus propagating the very evil it was intended to arrest. To those who were wise enough to avail themselves of it, it was a great blessing; but to the poor and the ignorant, who repudiated it, it was a scourge, and for some years after it was widely introduced, the deaths from small-pox were found rapidly to increase. If inoculation can be regarded as a national benefit it was chiefly because it led the way to the great discovery of Jenner.1
It was in this respect somewhat characteristic of the period in which it arose. One of the most remarkable features of the first sixty years of the eighteenth century is the great number of new powers or influences that were then called into action of which the full significance was only perceived long afterwards. It was in this period that Russia began to intervene actively in Western politics, and Prussia to emerge from the crowd of obscure German States into a position of commanding eminence. It was in this period that the first steps were taken in many works which were destined in succeeding generations to exercise the widest and most abiding influence on human affairs. It was then that the English Deists promulgated doctrines which led the way to the great movement of European scepticism, that Diderot founded the French Encyclopedia, that Voltaire began his crusade against the dominant religion of Christendom; that a few obscure Quakers began the long struggle for the abolition of slavery; that Wesley sowed the first seeds of religious revival in England. Without any great or salient revolutions the aspect of Europe was slowly changing, and before the middle of the century had arrived both the balance of power and the lines of division and antagonism were profoundly modified. Industrial interests and the commercial spirit had acquired a new preponderance in politics, and theological influence had at least proportionately declined. The fear of Mohammedan aggression, which was one great source of theological passions in Christendom, had now passed away. The power of the Turks was broken by the war which ended in the Peace of Carlowitz, and eighteen years later by the victories of Eugene, and although they waged a successful war with Austria in 1739, their triumph was much more due to the disorganisation of their opponents than to their own strength. Among Christian sects the frontier lines were now clearly traced. In Germany, as we have seen, the political position of Protestantism at the time of the Revolution appeared very precarious, and a new danger arose when the Sovereign of Saxony bartered his faith for the crown of Poland. But this danger had wholly passed. The elevation of Hanover into an Electorate and of Prussia into a kingdom, the additional strength acquired by Hanover through its connection with England, and the rapid development of the greatness of Prussia, would have secured German Protestantism from danger even if the zeal of the Catholic States had not greatly abated. The only religious war of the period broke out in Switzerland in 1712, and it ended in the complete triumph of the Protestant cantons, and the spirit of fanaticism and of persecution had everywhere declined. Two Protestant States, however, which had played a great and noble part in the history of the seventeenth century had sunk gradually into comparative insignificance. Sweden never recovered the effects of its disastrous war with Russia. Holland, through causes that were partly political and partly economical, had ceased to exercise any great influence beyond its borders. France exhibited some decline of energy and ambition, and a marked decline of administrative and military ability; and some of the elements of decomposition might be already detected which led to the convulsions of the Revolution. In England the Protestant succession and Parliamentary institutions were firmly established, and the position of the country in Europe was on the whole sustained.
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
Andrew's Hist. of British Journalism, i. p. 129.
In the recently published autobiography of Lord Shelburne there is a curious anecdote on the subject of caricatures. ‘He [Lord Melcombe] told me that coming home through Brussels, he was presented to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, after her disgrace. She said to him, ‘Young man, you come from Italy; they tell me of a new invention there called caricature drawing. Can you find me somebody that will make me a caricature of Lady Masham, describing her covered with running sores and ulcers, that I may send it to the Queen to give her a right idea of her new favourite?’ (p. 122).
Walpole's Memonrs of George II. ii. 228.
Advertisement to the first number of the Gentleman's Magazine.
Parl. Hist. x. 448.
The Idler, No. 30.
See, on the History of Newspapers, Chalmers’ Life of Ruddiman. Nichols’ Laterary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, vol. iv. Hunt's Fourth Estate. Andrews’ Hist. of British Journalism. Madden's Hist. of Irish Periodical Literature. Wright's England under the House of Hanover.
Mrs. Delany's Correspondence, i 551.
The Queen had always wished the King to marry again. ‘She had often said so when he was present and when he was not present, and when she was in health, and gave it now, as her advice to him when she was dying; upon which his sobs began to rise, and his tears to fall with double vehemence. Whilst in the midst of this passion, wiping his eyes and sobbing between every word, with much ado he got out this answer: ‘Non, j'aurai des maitresses.” To which the Queen made no other reply than: “Ah, mon Dieu! cela n'emp≖ehe pas.” I know this episode will hardly be credited, but it is literally true.’—Lord Hervey's Memoirs, ii. 513–514.
She had for fourteen years suffered from a rupture which she could not bring herself to reveal except to her husband. When on her death-bed, and suffering extreme agony, she still concealed it from her doctors, and it was contrary to her ardent wish that the King, too late to save her, told them of her complaint. Lord Hervey, ii. 505–506.
Lockhart's Life of Scott, v. 136–137.
Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, vol. iii.
Addison to Jos. Dawson. (Dec. 18, 1711) Departmental Correspondence. Irish State Paper Office.
Macpherson, iii. 300. Beckmann's Hist. of Inventions, ii. pp. 423–429. The passion for gambling in England appears in all the correspondence and other light literature of the time.
Defoe's Tour through Great Britain, i. 121–124.
See Addison's papers in the Spectator, No. 414, 477, and Pope's very curious paper in the Guardian, No. 173. See, too, Pope's Moral Essays, Ep. 4.
Spence's Anecdotes, xxxi. Walpole on Modern Gardens. See, too, his Life of Kent. See also, on the spread of the taste, Angeloni's Letters on the English Nation, ii. 266–274.
Walpole on Modern Gardening.
See on these exaggerations, The World, Nos. 6, 15. The taste was carried so far that dead trees were sometimes planted, and every straight walk condemned.
London's Encyclopædia of Gardening, pp. 276, 277.
Miller's Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century, i. pp. 163–188.
London's Encyclopædia, pp. 269, 273.
Pulteney's Progress of Botany in England, ii. 4.
London's Encyclopædia, p. 282.
Pulteney's Progress of Botany in England, ii. 197–201.
Spectator, No. 28.
Du Bos, Reflexions oritiques surla posie et sur la peinture, tom. ii. p. 152 (1733). Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ch. ix.
According to Pye, the first public exhibition of British Works of Art was about 1740, when Hogarth presented a portrait to the Founding Hospital, and other artists followed his example. In 1759 a meeting of artists resolved to establish an annual exhibition, and in the following year they, for the first time, carried their intention into effect.—Pye's Patronage of British Art, p. 286.
A list of the chief collections in England in 1766 is given in Pye's Patronage of British Art, pp. 145–146, and catalogues of the chief pictures contained in them will be found in a book called The English Connoisseur: an account of whatever is curious in painting and sculpture in the palaces and seats of the nobility and gentry of England (1766).
‘No painter, however excellent, can succeed among the English, that is not engaged in painting portraits. Canaletti, whose works they admired whilst he resided at Venice, at his coming to London had not in a whole year the employment of three months. Wattean, whose pictures are sold at such great prices at present, painted never a picture but two which he gave to Dr. Mead, during the time he resided here. At the same time, Vanloo, who came hither with the reputation of painting portraits very well, was obliged to keep three or four subaltern painters for drapery and other parts.’—Angeloni's Letters on the English (2nd ed. 1756), vol. i. p. 97. So, too, Amiconi, a Venetian historical painter, came to England in 1729, and tried for a time to maintain a position by his own form of art, ‘but,’ says Horace Walpole, ‘as portraiture is the one thing necessary to a painter in this country, he was obliged to betake himself to that employment much against his inclination.’—Anecdotes of Painting. See, too, Dallaway's Progress of the Arts in England, pp. 455–461.
Rouqnet, L'Etat des Arts en Angleterre, pp. 59–60.
See e.g. that noble sketch—the last he ever drew—called ‘Finis.’
8 Geo. ii. c. 13. Nichols’ Memoirs of Hogarth, p. 37.
Lawes taught music in the house of Lord Bridgewater, where Comus was first represented.
Some say that Signor Bononcini Compared to Handel is a ninny; Others aver that to him Handel Is scarcely fit to hold a candle. Strange that such difference should be “Twixt tweedledum and tweedledee.
Burney's Hist. of Music. Scholcher's Life of Handel. Byrom's Remains, vol. i. pt. i. p. 150.
Lord Hervey's Memoirs, i. 314. The Princess Royal was equally enthusiastic. The King said, with good-nature and good sense, ‘He did not think setting oneself at the head of a faction of fiddlers a very honourable employment for people of quality, or the ruin of one poor fellow [Handel] so generous or so good-natured a scheme as to do much honour to the undertakers, whether they succeeded or not.’
Fielding has noticed this in a characteristic passage. ‘It was Mr. Western's custom every afternoon, as soon as he was drunk, to hear his daughter play on the harpsichord; for he was a great lover of music, and, perhaps, had he lived in town, might have passed as a connoisseur, for he always excepted against the finest compositions of Mr. Handel; he never relished any music but what was light and airy; and, indeed, his most favourite tunes were “Old Sir Simon, the King,” “St. George he was for England,” “Bobbing Joan,” and some others.’—Tom Jones.
See Smollett's poem called ‘Advice,’ and the accompanying note.
Russel was a famous mimic and singer set up by certain ladies of quality to oppose Handel. When the current of fashion changed he sank into debt, and was confined in Newgate, where he lost his reason. A small subscription was with difficulty raised among his patronesses to procure his admission into Bedlam.
See a very curious and interesting little book, called An Account of the Visit of Handel to Dublin, by Horatio Townsend (Dublin, 1852). Since this book was published, a little additional light has been thrown on the stay of Handel in Ireland, by the publication of the letters of Mrs. Delany, who was then living near Dublin, and who was a friend and ardent admirer of Handel. See, too, Burney's Hist. of Music, iv. 661–662.
Mercer's Hospital and the Charitable Infirmary.
He was a Leicestershire country gentleman—a Nonjuror. Townsend, p. 81.
Mrs. Delany's Correspondence, iii. 177.
Ibid. iii. 549–550. He left 20,000l.
Schölcher's Life of Handel. Burney and Hawkins's Histories of Music.
Compare Collier's Annals of the Stage, i. 343. Chalmers’ Account of the Early English Stage.
Cibber's Apology, ch. iv.
‘While our authors took these extraordinary liberties with their wit, I remember the ladies were then observed to be decently afraid of venturing barefaced to a new comedy till they had been assured they might do it without the risque of insult to their modesty; or if their curiosity were too strong for their patience, they took care at least to save appearances, and rarely came upon the first days of acting but in masks (then daily worn, and admitted in the pit, side boxes, and gallery).’ Cibber's Apology, ch. viii. So Pope:—
See Davies’ Life of Garrick, ii. 355 (ed. 1780).
Harleian Miscellany, ii. 21.
See some admirable remarks on the subject in his Project for the Advancement of Religion, written in 1709. He says: ‘It is worth observing the distributive justice of the authors, which is constantly applied to the punishment of virtue and the reward of vice; directly opposite to the rules of their best criticks, as well as to the practice of dramatick poets in all other ages and countries … I do not remember that our English poets ever suffered a criminal amour to succeed upon the stage until the reign of Charles II. Ever since that time the alderman is made a cuckold, the deluded virgin is debanched, and adultery and fornication are supposed to be committed behind the scenes as part of the action.’
So, too, in the Prologue of the play—
Joseph Andrews, book iii. ch. 11. Hallam says, ‘Steele's Conscious Lovers is the first comedy [after the Restoration] which can be called moral.’ Hist. of Literature, iv. p. 284. Hazlitt complains of the too didactic character of the plays of Steele, and says, ‘The comedies of Steele were the first that were written expressly with a view not to imitate the manners but to reform the morals of the age.’—Lectures on the Comic, Writers, p. 341.
Swift's Correspondence, ii. 243. Intelligencer, No. III.
Parl. Hist. ix. 948.
A very full history of Walpole's measure is given in Coxe's Life, ch. xivii. It was ostensibly an Act to amend a law passed under Anne which treated players who acted without licence as vagrants or vagabonds. See, too, Maty's Life of Chesterfield, Lawrence's Life of Fielding, Parl. Debates.
As Horace Walpole said: ‘Why are there so few genteel comedies but because most comedies are written by men not of that sphere? Etheridge, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Cibber wrote genteel comedy because they lived in the best company; and Mrs. Oldfield played it so well because she not only followed but often set the fashion.—To the Countess of Ossory, June 14, 1787.
Tatler, No. 134. Spectator, No. 44.
Walpole's Letters to Mann. May, 1749.
Walpole's Mem. of George II., iii. p. 98. Bedford ascribed the great storm of 1703 to the iniquities of the stage.—Bedford on the Stage, p 26.
Davies’ Life of Garrick, i. 92–93. Cibber's Apology, ch. xv.
Dryden's Essay on Dramatic Poetry.
He calls Midsummer Night's Dream ‘the most insipid, ridiculous play’ he ever saw; the Taming of the Shrew ‘a silly play;’ Othello (which he appears at first to have liked), ‘a mean thing;’ Henry VIII. ‘a simple thing made up of many patches,’
Malone's Historical Account of the English Stage.
Life of Milton.
Knight's Studies of Shakespeare, p. 141. See, too, Miller's Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century, iii. 48–49, 296–297.
Davies’ Life of Garrick, ii. p. 224.
See an interesting account of this great triumph in Kirkman's Life of Macklin, ii. 253–265.
Mrs. Delany's Life, ii. 139. Pope wrote—
Malone's Historical Account of the English Stage, 292-294. The interval that had elapsed since the former acting of each of these plays is given by Malone on the authority of the advertisements, which may not always have been absolutely correct.
The impression Betterton made in his day seems to have been not at all less than that made by Garrick. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, and Steele took occasion of his funeral to devote an admirable paper in the Tatler to his acting. See, too, Cibber's Apology. Cibber pronounced him as supreme among actors as Shakespeare among poets. A few other particulars relating to him will be found in Galt's Lives of the Players. Pope thought Betterton the greatest actor, but said that some old people spoke of Hart as his superior. Betterton died in 1710. Spence's Anecdotes.
Davies’ Life of Garrick, i. 114.
See the preliminary dissertation to Foote's Works, i. pp. iii., liii. Macklin, who had quarrelled with Garrick and who cordially detested him, described his acting as ‘all bustle.’ Macklin's Memoirs, i. 248. Fielding's witty description is well known. ‘He the best player!’ cries Partridge, with a contemptuous sneer, ‘why, I could act as well as he myself. I am sure if I had seen a ghost I should have looked in the very same manner and done just as he did. And then, to be sure, in that scene, as you called it, between him and his mother, when you told me he acted so fine, why, Lord help me! any man—that is, any good man—that has such a mother would have done exactly the same. I know you are only joking with me. but indeed, Madam, though I was never at a play in London, yet I have seen acting before in the country; and, the King for my money 1 he speaks all his words distinctly, half as loud again as the other. Anybody may see he is an actor.’—Tom Jones. See, too, The World, No. 6.
Nichols’ Life of Hogarth, pp. 191, 192.
Mrs. Montagn's Letters, iii. 107.
Some particulars of the increase of actors’ salaries will be found in Kirkman's Life of Macklin, i. 435. Davies’ Life of Garrich, ii. 239–242.
Burton's Hist. of Scotland from the Revolution, ii. 561. James I., before he ascended the English throne, had come into violent collision with the Puritan ministers, because he tried to procure actors toleration in Scotland.—Collier's Annals of the Stage, i. pp. 344–6.
See the long and curious criticism on Macbeth. Two passages may be cited as specimens of this singular book. ‘When God was pleased to vindicate His own honour, and show that He would not be thus affronted, by sending a most dreadful storm.… yet, so great was the obstinacy of the stage under such signal judgments, that we are told the actors did in a few days after entertain again their audience with the ridiculous plays of the Tempest and Macbeth, and that at the mention of the chimneys being blown down the audience were pleased to clap at an unusual length … as if they would outbrave the judgment, throw Providence out of the chair, place the devil in His stead, and provoke God once more to plead His own cause by sending a greater calamity’ (p. 26). ‘In another play … the high-priest sings—
(By the mystery of Thy holy incarnation (which was to destroy the works of the devil); by Thy holy nativity and circumcision; by Thy baptism, fasting, and temptation; by Thine agony and bloody sweat; by Thy cross and passion: by Thy precious death and burial; by Thy glorious resurrection and ascension; and by the coming of the Holy Ghost, Good Lord, deliver us from such impieties as these!)’ (p. 16).
‘Our blessed Saviour … hath these words: “This is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Upon the stage, an actor, finding that his mistress loves him, saith—
Davies’ Life of Garrick, ii. 226–227.
See a very curious collection of Puritan denunciations of cockfighting, on the ground that ‘the antipathy and cruelty that one beast showeth to another is the fruit of our rebellion against God,’ in the Harleian Miscellany, vi. 125–127.
See Macaulay's account, Hist. ch. 2, and the famous bear-baiting scene in Hudibras.
Pepys’ Diary, Aug. 14, 1666. Evelyn's Diary, June 16, 1670.
John Houghton's ‘Collections for the Improvement of Agriculture’ (1694), quoted in Malcolm's Anecdotes of London, iii. 57. As late as 1749, Chetwood, in his History of the Stage, says, ‘Bull-baiting, boxing, beargardens, and prize tighting will draw to them all ranks of people from the peer to the pedlar’ (p. 60). They had, however, at this time quite passed out of the category of recognised fashionable amusements.
Spectator, No. 141. Tatler, No. 134. Guardian, No. 61 (by Pope). See, too, the World, No. 190.
See, on the vivisection of dogs, Coventry's Pompey the Little, part iii. ch. xi. The author adds: ‘A dog might have been the emblematic animal of Æsculapius or Apollo with as much propriety as he was of Mercury; for no creatures, I believe, have been of more eminent service to the healing tribe than dogs. Incredible is the number of these animals which have been sacrificed at the shrines of physic and surgery. Lectures of anatomy subsist by their destruction. Ward (says Pope) tried his drops on puppies and the poor; and in general, all new medicines and experiments of a doubtful nature are sure to be made in the first place on the bodies of those unfortunate animals.’ Swift, in one of his Drapier's Letters, compares the threats and complaints of Wood ‘to the last howls of a dog dissected alive, as I hope he hath sufficiently been.’—Letter 4.
Spence's Anecdotes, sec. viii.
‘Among the inferior professors of medical knowledge is a race of wretches, whose lives are only varied by varieties of cruelty; whose favourite amusement is to nail dogs to tables and open them alive; to try how long life may be continued in various degrees of mutilation or with the excision or laceration of the vital parts; to examine whether burning irons are felt more acutely by the bone or tendon and whether the more lasting agonies are produced by poison forced into the mouth or injected into the vcins.’—The Idler (No. 17), 1758.
See especially his poem on field sports.
Spence's Anecdotes, Supplement.
Tatler, No. 134. Guardian, No. 61. ‘The bear-garden,’ says Lord Kames, ‘which is one of the chief entertainments of the English, is held in abhorrence by the French and other polite nations.’—Essays on Morality (1st ed.), p. 7. Hogarth introduced into his picture of a cockfight, a Frenchman turning away with an expression of unqualified disgust.
Andrews Eighteenth Century, p. 60. Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 259.
There is, however, a picture representing a Dutch fair, in the gallery at the Hague, where a goose is represented undergoing a similar fate.
See, on these sports, Strutt's Sports and Pustimes of the English People. Collier's Hist. of the Drama. Andrews’ Eighteenth Century. Chambers's Book of Days, Hone's Everyday Book, Milson's Travels in England, Muralt's Letters on England. One famous bear, called Sacherson, is immortalised by Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor, act 1, scene 1.
Chambers's Domestic Annals of Scotland, iii. 269.
Chambers's Domestic Annals of Scotland, 267–8.
Roberts's Social Hist. of the Southern Counties, p. 421. The history of cock-fighting and cock-throwing has been fully examined in a dissertation by Pegge, in the Archæologia, vol. iii.; in Beckmann's Hist. of Inventions, vol. ii.; and in Strutt's Sports and Pastimes. See, too, Macky's Tour through England, vol. i. p. 137; Heath's account of the Scilly Islands, Pinkerton's Voyages, ii. 756. Wesley tells a story of a gentleman whom he reproved for swearing, and who was at last so mollified that he said ‘he would come to hear him, only he was afraid he should say something against fighting of cocks.’—Wesley's Journal, March 1743.
See a curious passage from ‘The Universal Spectator, of 1730, quoted in the Pictorial Hist. of England, iv. 805. Beau Nash's Life, by Doran. Doran's article on Beau Nash, in the Gentleman's Magazine. Townsend's Hist. of the House of Commons, ii. p. 412–416. The evils resulting from the prevailing fashion of wearing swords, had been noticed in the beginning of the century in a treatise on the subject by a writer named Povey.
Defoe has noticed this independence in lines more remarkable for their meaning than for their form.
See the comparison in Arthur Young's Tour in France.
This change is well noticed in a very able book published in 1772. The author says: ‘An income of 200l. or 300l. a year in the last age was reckoned a decent hereditary patrimony, or a good establishment for life; but now. all country gentlemen give in to so many local expenses, and reckon themselves so much on a par, that a small estate is but another word for starving; of course, few are to be found, but they are bought up by greater neighbours or become mere farmers.’—Letters on England, p. 229. In Grose's Olio, published in 1792, there is a very graphic description of the mode of living of ‘the little independent country gentleman of 300l. per annum,’ ‘a character, the author says, ‘now worn out and gone.’
Mrs. Montagu, in one of her letters from Yorkshire to a friend in London, write ‘We have not been troubled with any visitors since Mr. Montagu went away; and could you see how awkward, how absurd, how uncouth are the generality of people in this country, you would look upon this as no small piece of good fortune. For the most part they are drunken and vicious, and worse than hypocrites—profligates. I am very happy that drinking is not within our walls. We have not had one person disordered with liquor since we came down, though most of the poor ladies in the neighbourhood have had more hogs in their drawing-room than ever they had in their hog sty.’—Doran's Life of Mrs. Montagu, p. 36.
Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, p. 106.
It is worthy of notice that the complaints of the increasing price of living in the first half of the eighteenth century, were, among the upper classes, little less loud than those we hear in the present day. Thus the author of Faction Detected by the Evidence of Facts, which was published in 1743, speaking of the royal income at different periods of English history, says, ‘King William and Queen Anne had but 700,000l. per annum, but neither had any family to provide for, and both lived in times when that income would have supported a greater expense than a million would now do; for the truth of which I appeal to the experience of every private family, and to the known advance of price in all commodities and articles of expense whatsoever’ (p. 137).
These and many other statistics on the subject, are collected in Knight's Pictorial Hist. of England, iv. p. 700. Eden's Hist. of the Working Classes, iii. append. i. Thornton's Over-Population, p. 202.
The immense proportion the paupers bore to the rest of the population will strike the reader, but Macaulay, in his famous third chapter, greatly exaggerated its significance as indicating the amount of real misery in the community. The relief was out-door relief; there appears to have been no general feeling of shame about accepting it, and it was distributed with a most mischievous profusion. Richard Dunning, in a tract published in 1698, asserts that the parish pay was in fact three times as much as a common labourer, having to maintain a wife and three children, can afford to expend upon himself, and that ‘persons once receiving parish pay presently become idle, alleging that the parish is bound to maintain them, and that in case they should work, it would only favour a parish from whom, they say, they shall have no thanks.’ He assures us that ‘such as are maintained by the parish pay, seldom drink any other than the strongest ale-house beer, which, at the rate they buy it, costs 50d. or 3l. a hogshead; that they seldom eat any bread save what is made of the finest wheat flour.’ At this time there is reason to believe that wheat bread was almost unused among the labouring poor. The formation of work-houses in 1723 was of some advantage, but the diet of their inmates was most imprudently and indeed absurdly liberal. See Thornton's Over-Population, pp. 205–207. Knight's Pictorial History, iv. p. 844. Macaulay's picture of the condition of the poor should be compared with the admirable chapter on the same subject in Mr. Thornton's Over-Population. See, too, his Labour, pp. 11–12. The annual expenditure in poor rates is said to have trebled between the close of the reign of Anne and the year 1750 (Macpherson, Hist. of Commerce, iii. p. 560); yet nearly all the evidence we possess seems to show that the prosperity of the country had during that period been steadily increasing.
This curious work is printed in full at the end of the later editions of Chalmers's Estimate. Macaulay, as will be seen, has much overcharged his picture of the wretchedness of the poor when he states, on the authority of King, that ‘hundreds of thousands of families scarcely knew the taste of meat.’
British Merchant, i. 6, 7. ‘I think nothing so terrible,’ wrote Lady M. Montagu, when travelling through France in 1718, ‘as objects of misery, except one had the Godlike attribute of being capable to redress them; and all the country villages of France show nothing else. When the post-horses are changed, the whole town comes out to beg, with such miserable starved faces and thin tattered clothes, they need no other eloquence to persuade one of the wretchedness of their condition.’—Lady M. W. Montagn's Works (Lord Wharncliffe's edition), ii. p. 89.
Arthur Young's Southern Tour, pp. 321-324. Northern Tour, iv. pp. 293-297. Tour in France. See, too, Eden's Hist. of the Poor, Thornton's Over-Population and Labour, Knight's Pictorial Hist. of England, vol. iv., Taine's Ancion Regime.
McCulloch's Statistical Account of the British Empire, i. 550.
Eden's Hist. of the Poor, i. 136-137. Craik's Hist. of Commerce, ii. 114. See, too, on the alarm felt at the increase of London. Parl. Hist. iv. 660, 676, 679, 742, 743.
Essay upon Ways and Means.
Howell's Londonpolis (1657), p. 346.
Evelyn's Diary, June 12,1684.
Anecdotes of Painting.
Andrew's Eighteenth Century, p. 62.
Doran's Life and Letters of Mrs.-Montagu, pp. 274-275.
Seymour's Survey of London.
The street was then only called Piccadilly to Devonshire House. The continuation was called Portugal Street, and near Hyde Park, the Exeter Road.
Craik's Hist. of Commerce, ii. 215.
Macpherson, ii. 449; iii. 14.
Ibid, ii 655; iii. 134.
Macky's Journey through England, i. 168. Muralt's Letters on the English, p. 84.
Macpherson, iii. 121.
Compare Macpherson, ii. 608; iii. 13. The penny post was first instituted in 1682 as a private enterprise by an upholsterer named Murray, who assigned it to one Dockwra, and Government ultimately adopted it. Its first mention in the Statute Book is in 1711.
Pugh's Life of Hanway, pp. 127-139. See too the description of the state of the streets in Gay's Trivia. Macpherson's Hist. of Commerce, iii. 360, 477.
Macanlay has noticed (c. iii.), on the authority of Duke Cosmo, the badness of the bricks of the city which was destroyed by the fire. Muralt, in the very beginning of the eighteenth century (p. 76), declares that London houses seldom last more than forty or fifty years, and sometimes drop before the end of that term. The author of the Letters Concerning the Present State of England (1772), says: ‘The material of all common edifices, viz. bricks, are most insufferably bad, to a degree that destroys the beauty of half the buildings about town, making them seem of dirt and mud rather than brick.… A law might surely be enacted against using or making such detestable materials, by having all bricks undergo a survey or examination before sale, that are made in London’ (p. 241).
Rambler, No. 124.
Hatton's New View of London, i. p. 30. Many particulars relating to these coffee-houses will be found in Timbs's Club Life in London.
Cibber's Apology, ch. 5.
Tatler, No. 263. In the country the old hours seem to have gone on. Pope, in his Epistle to Mrs. Blount, on her leaving town for the country, says—
Behaviour of the Servants of England, p. 12.
See Lawrence's Life of Fielding, p. 66.
Spectator, No. 88. World, No. 157. Angleloni's Letters on the English, ii. 38-42. Defoe's Behaviour of the Servants of England. Fielding's Old Men Taught Wisdom. Gentlemen's Magazine, 1731, pp. 249-250. Gonzales, a Portuguese traveller who visited England in 1730, writes: ‘As to the common and menial servants [of London] they have great wages, are well kept and clothed, but are notwithstanding the plague of almost every house in town. They form themselves into societies, or rather confederacies, contributing to the maintenance of each other when out of place, and if any of them cannot manage the family where they are entertained as they please, immediately they give notice they will be gone. There is no speaking to them; they are above correction.… It is become a common saying, “If my servant ben't a thief, if he be but honest, I can bear with other things,” and, indeed, it is very rare to meet in London with an honest servant.’—Pinkerton's Travels, ii. 95.
Lawrence's Life of Fielding, pp. 63–64. Mrs. Delany's Life and Correspondence, i. 398–399.
Eight Letters to his Grace the Duke of — on the Custom of Vailsgiving in England [by Hanway, the Persian traveller] (London, 1760). King's Anecdotes of his Own Time, pp. 51–52. Reresby's Memoirs, p. 377. Angeloni's Letters on the Einglish, ii. pp. 38–42. World, No. 60. Connoisseur, No. 70. Dodsley's High Life below Stairs. Roberts's Social Hist. of the Southern Counties, pp. 32–34.
‘Many of its streets have been widened, made straight, raised, paved with easy descents to carry off the water; besides wells in most public yards, and pipes for conveying plenty of fresh water to keep them clean and sweet; many late stately edifices, large clean courts, lofty rooms, large sashlights, &c., and many excellent conveniences both by land and water, for supplying the city with fresh provisions at moderate prices … must contribute not a little to make the city more healthy.’—Short's Comparative Hist. of the Increase and Decrease of Mankind in England and Abroad (1767), p. 20, See, too, Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iii. 321.
Heberden's Observations on the Increase and Decrease of Different Diseases (1801). This eminent authority, having given many statistics on the subject, concludes: ‘The cause of so great an alteration in the health of the people of England (for it is not confined to the metropolis) I have no hesitation in attributing to the improvements which have gradually taken place, not only in London but in all the great towns, and in the manner of living throughout the kingdom; particularly in respect to cleanliness and ventilation’ (p. 35).
See the article on Vital Statistics, in McCulloch's Statistical Account of the British Empire, and Short's Comparative History, According to Short, ‘the cities and great towns in the kingdom may be deemed as so many slanghterhouses of the people of the nation’ (p. 22).
Dr. Short says the passion for spirituous liquors ‘began to diffuse its pernicious effects in 1724, at the very time when the city began to be more fruitful and healthy than it had been since the Restoration. How powerfully this poison wrought let us now see. From 1704 to 1724 were born 336,514, buried 474,125. Let us allow fourteen years for this dire bane to spread, operate, and become epidemic; then from 1738 to 1758 were born 296,831, buried 486,171. Here we have two shocking effects of this bewitching liquor. First, here is a greater barrenness, a decrease or want of 40,000 of ordinary births which the last vicennary produced, instead of an increase, as we had in other vicennaries. Secondly, an increase of 12,000 buryings, though there was so great a defect of births.’—Short's Comparative History, p. 21.
Pulteney, Progress of Botany in England, ii. 85, 99–103.
Nichols’ Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, iv. 618. Miller's Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century, ii. 10. Charles II. had given the Royal Society the privilege of taking bodies of malefactors for anatomical purposes. Hatton's New View of London, ii. 665.
Lady M. W. Montagu's Worhs (Lord Wharncliffe's ed.), i. pp. xxii. 55–60, 391–393. Baron's Life of Jenner, vol. i. 230–233. Gentleman's Magaxine, xxvii. 409. Haygarth on Casual Small-pox (1793), vol. i. p. 31. Nichols’ Literary Anecdotes of the Eightenth Century, iv. 625. Nichols’ Illustrations, i. 277–280 Voltaire's Lettres sur les Anglois, let. xi. Heberden's Observations on the Increase and Decrease of Disease, p. 36.