The "Spectator" as an Advertising Medium
“It is my Custom in a Dearth of News to entertain my self with those Collections of Advertisements that appear at the End of all our publick Prints. These I consider as Accounts of News from the little World, in the same Manner that the foregoing Parts of the Paper are from the great. If in one we hear that a Sovereign Prince is fled from his Capital City, in the other we hear of a Tradesman who hath shut up his Shop and run away. If in one we find the Victory of a General, in the other we see the Desertion of a private Soldier. I must confess, I have a certain Weakness in my Temper, that is often very much affected by these little Domestick Occurrences, and have frequently been caught with Tears in my Eyes over a melancholy Advertisement.” — ADDISON in “TATLER” NO. 224, “From Tuesday September 12. to Thursday September 14. 1710.”
To one not a miser of old books, nor a scholar, who is reasonably familiar with the essays of Steele and Addison, and is interested in the history, life, and letters of Queen Anne’s England, the advertisements are the most significant of the distinctive features of a first edition of the Spectator. As one turns these half sheets, — which, as a correspondent said of the Taller, are of “ Tobacco Paper,” and printed “ in Scurvy Letter,” but, after two centuries, are now little more faded than many a twenty-year-old file of a modern newspaper, — and as one notes the advertisements printed at the end of contributions from the most renowned wits of the day, many allusions, before obscure or absolutely meaningless, become clear. The advertisements, furthermore, fully explain many casual references in other writings of the time; they contain considerable matter worthy of careful study by historians of literature and politics; they furnish much valuable material for students of the manners and customs of the so-called " Augustan Age.” Finally, they richly reward even cursory examination by editors and publishers who are interested in the Spectator, not merely as a collection of essays, but as the most representative periodical of the time. Although one of the earliest of daily publications, the Spectator affords significant evidence of the rapid development of forms of advertisement with which we are familiar, and of relations between the editorial and business departments.
It is doubtful if, in any other collection of essays, is to be found a more happy and uniform combination of the qualities which appeal to all ages with a surprising “ timeliness ” in relation to events of the passing hour. Yet, because of this timeliness, the writers naturally took much for granted.
All Londoners understood at once what was referred to by the writer of the letter in Number 271 who offered to wait upon Mr. Spectator " in the Dusk of the Evening, with his Show upon his Back, which he carried about with him in a Box, as only consisting of a Man, a Woman, and a Horse.” This rather fantastic letter is explained in later reprints of the essays by a note that is not needed by those who see the first edition. These papers, we know, were read, even " in the fens of Lincolnshire or the more distant wilds of Perthshire,” by country gentlemen, who gathered on Sundays or on post-days for the purpose. Yet even to such of these as had never been in London, it was clear, as it may be to us, from current advertisements, that people of fashion, in order to gratify the insatiable craving for the unusual of any sort which was especially characteristic of the age, were going in crowds “ Just over-against the Muse Gate at Charing-Cross [to see] . . . these Rarities following, viz. a little Man 3 Foot high, and 32 Years of Age, strait and proportionable every way, . . . his Wife, . . . not 3 Foot high, and 30 Years of Age, who diverts the Company by her extraordinary Dancing . . . likewise their little Horse, 2 Foot odd Inches high, which performs several wonderful Actions by the word of Command, being so small that it’s kept in a Box.”
Besides explaining many allusions in the main essays, the advertisements in the Spectator make clear passing remarks in such contemporary writings as the Journal to Stella. Indeed a most excellent set of clear notes to the Journal, and to other writings of the time, might be made up solely of extracts from advertisements out of the Spectator.
Here and there, in books on the Queen Anne period, one finds quotations from the advertising sections of newspapers like the Courant and the Postboy, but almost none from those of the Spectator. Only the extreme rarity of complete collections of the original sheets can explain this failure of writers of literary and political histories to study these advertisements systematically.
The Spectator first appeared Thursday, March 1, 1711, and continued to be published daily, except Sundays, until Saturday, December 6, 1712. The 555 numbers issued in this period make up the “ first series.” Addison, without assistance from Steele, published on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, between June 18, 1714 and December 20, 1714, the 80 numbers which compose “ Volume VIII,” or the “ second series.” Of the first 555 numbers, there are a few incomplete files; but files, even incomplete, of the last eighty numbers are still more rare. There are comparatively few complete sets of all 635 numbers. Among the best known are the one in the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh, that in the private library of Robert Hoe of New York, and the set, once Edmond Malone’s, which was acquired in the autumn of 1906 by the Harvard College Library. It is to the last I have had access. Even the British Museum had no complete collection of the original numbers at the time of the publication of the last catalogue.
This may explain why even Thackeray was probably familiar only with later editions, although, while preparing his course of lectures on English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century, he steeped himself so thoroughly in all available material relating to the life and letters of the time of Queen Anne that he was presently able to compass such a splendid literary anachronism as Henry Esmond. For, even in the “ delightful paper which pretends to be Number 341 of the Spectator for All Fools’ Day, 1712,” although borrowing for Colonel Esmond “ not only Steele’s voice, but his very trick of speech,” Thackeray commits a glaring minor blunder of which no one familiar with the first edition could have been guilty. As Austin Dobson has pointed out, “ although this pseudo-Spectator is stated to have been printed ‘ exactly as those famous journals ’ were printed . . . Mr. Esmond, to his very apposite Latin epigraph, unluckily appended an English translation — a concession to the country gentlemen from which both Addison and Steele had deliberately abstained ” in the original papers, but which was made in later reprints of the essays.
Thackeray apparently is not alone in his unfamiliarity with the first edition. Even John Ashton, who compiled his Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne entirely from original sources, makes very few references to advertisements in the Spectator, although he frequently refers to those in less representative periodicals. Could students have had the opportunity to examine all the original sheets, they would have found in the Spectator advertisements conclusive evidence on such points in literary history as the day of first publication of pieces of literature about which there has been considerable controversy.
It has, I believe, been hitherto unsettled in which of two books was first published the story of Alexander Selkirk, or Selcraig, whose experiences were made the basis for Robinson Crusoe, which Defoe published in 1719. At his own request Selkirk had been put ashore in October, 1704, on the island of Juan Fernandez in the South Pacific, where he lived alone for fifty-two months, until he was rescued by an English privateering expedition. It is often said that the first printed narrative of Selkirk’s adventures was a book which was advertised in Spectator No. 412, for Monday, June 23, 1712, as follows:
On Thursday next will be Published,
A Cruising Voyage round the World, first to the South Seas, thence to the East-Indies, and homewards by the Cape of Good Hope. Begun in 1708, and finished in 1711. Containing a Journal of all the remarkable Transactions, particularly of the taking of Puna and Guiaquil, of the Acapulco Ship, and other Prizes. A more particular Account of Alexander Selkirk’s living alone four Years and four Months in an Island, than has hitherto been given. Also a brief Description of several Countries in our Course noted for Trade, especially in the South Sea. Together with a Table of every Days run cross that great Ocean from California to the Island Guam in the East Indies. Also Maps of all the Coasts of South America for 6000 Miles, taken from the best Spanish Manuscript Draughts. And an Introduction relating to the South Sea Trade. By Capt. Woodes Rogers Commander in chief of the Expedition with the ships Duke and Dutchess of Bristol. Printed for A. Bell and Bernard Lintott, and sold by Mr. Horn, Mr. Parker, and Mr. Philips by the Exchange, Mr. Mount on Tower-hill, and Mr. Tracey on London-bridge. Price bound 6s.
The former account hinted at in this advertisement was mentioned by Howell; but has not, I believe, been generally recognized to have preceded Rogers’s book. Almost three months before the publication of this log by the commander-in-chief, Captain Woodes Rogers, his subordinate, Captain Edward Cooke, who was second captain aboard the Dutchess, had printed what, I venture to say, was the first authoritative story about Selkirk. The notice of this book in Spectator No. 337, for Thursday, March 27, 1712, was as follows; —
This Day is Published
A Voyage to the South Sea, and round the World, performed in the Ships Duke and Dutchess of Bristol, in the years 1708, 1709, 1710 and 1711. Containing a Journal of all memorable Transactions during the said Voyage; the Winds, Currents and Variation of the Compass; the taking of the Towns of Puna and Guayaquil, and several Prizes, one of which is a rich Acapulco Ship. A Description of the American Coasts, from Tierra del Fuego in the South, to California in the North. (from the Coasting Pilot, a Spanish Manuscript.) An Historical Account of all those Countries from the best Authors. With a new Map and Description of the mighty River of the Amazons. Wherein an Account is given of Mr. Alexander Selkirk, his Manner of living and taming some wild Beasts during the four Years and four Months he lived upon the uninhabited Island of Juan Fernandes. Illustrated with Cuts and Maps: By Captain Edward Cooke. Printed for B. Lintott and R. Gosling in Fleetstreet, A. Bettesworth on London-bridge, and W. Innys in St. Paul’s Church-yard.
From the advertisements, it appears that this privateering cruise appealed strongly to the popular imagination, and, at the time, was probably more celebrated than any other naval exploit of Queen Anne’s reign except the Vigo expedition. An advertisement, not in the Spectator, announced that, at Elford’s Coffee House, was “ to be seen and read Gratis, the Journal of the famous Voyage of the Duke and Dutchess Privateer of Bristol, that took the rich Aquiápulco Ship containing many remarkable Transactions. Also an Account of a Man living alone 4 Years and 4 Months in the Island of John Fernando, which they brought with them.” Public disposition of part of the booty was also advertised. So great was the interest in these “ South Sea ships ” that at least one other “ Sale by Inch of Candle,” — a peculiar method of auction common at the time, — which had been announced previously for the same day, was postponed.
This record of plunder taken from the Spaniards is not all that the advertisements tell of the campaigns carried on under letters of marque — an important minor phase of the War of the Spanish Succession which has been neglected by historians. The French also were sufferers, as is shown by notices of a very large number of auctions, such as that of “ 26 Puncheons of excellent Bordeaux and Coniacq Brandy, neat, full Proof, and of a true Flavour; taken from the French by a Guernzey Privateer, and condemn’d Prize in the High Court of Admiralty.” Nor did the English commerce escape entirely, as Swift testifies in his Journal. In the Spectator for March 14, 1712, the famous wine-merchants “ Brooke and Hillier give Notice, that they have now on the Road from Bristol an entire Cargo of the Johns Galley, (consisting of 140 Pipes of new natural Oporto Wines, Red and White) which is the only Ship except one more that has escaped the Enemy this year, loaden with those sort of Wines,” etc.
Besides these numerous records of irregular warfare, there are many other advertisements interesting because of their bearing upon the history of the time. A large number, naturally, have to do with John Churchill, who, not very long before, had won his dukedom of Marlborough. While Swift was thundering in the Examiner against the peculations and intrigues of the victor of Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet, and was complaining of the enormous expenditure of public funds on the Captain General’s splendid mansion, then being built at Woodstock in Oxfordshire, which had already cost the nation £200,000, and “not yet near finished,” the following appeared in the Spectator : —
With Her Majesty’s Royal Privilege and Licence, there is now Printing an exact Description of the Palace of Blenheim in Oxfordshire, in a large Folio. Illustrated with the Plans, Elevations, Sections and Perspectives, Engraven by the best Hands on Copper Plates ; several of which being already finished, are just Published in distinct Sheets by Jacob Tonson at Sbakespears Head over against Catharinestreet in the Strand.
The bitterness of the struggle between political parties is suggested by two advertisements printed close together in the edition for December 18, 1711: —
This Day is Published,
A second Part of the Caveat against the Whigs, in a short Historical View of their Transactions; wherein are discovered their many Attempts and Contrivances against the Established Government, both in Church and State, since the Restoration of King Charles 2d. With a Preface to both Parts. Sold by J. Morphew near Stationer’s-Hall, price 1s. Where is to be had the second Edition of the first Part.
This Day is Publish’d,
Tory Partiality detected: Or a True State of the Pole and Scrutiny of Broad-street Ward, on the Election of an Alderman in the room of Sir Joseph Wolf deceas’d ; Begun Sept. 13 and continu’d by several Necessary and unavoidable Adjournments to the 27th of October following : Before Sir Gilbert Heathcot Kt. late Lord Mayor of the City of London. Printed for J. Baker at the Black-Boy in Pater-noster-Row. Price 3d.
Another notice which enforces the same point was printed as much as a year later.
Who Plot best; the Whigs or the Tories. Being a brief Account of all the Plots that have happen’d within these Thirty Years, viz Three Tory Plots, the Popish, the Abdication, the Assassination. Five Whig Plots, the Presbyterian, the Pinns, the Puppets, the Mohocks, the BandBox. In a Letter to Mr. Ferguson. Printed for A. Baldwin, near the Oxford Arms in WarwickLane. Price 4d.
How bitterly religious controversy still raged, is shown by notices of two pamphlets from champions of the Church of England — one directed against the Roman Catholics, the other against the “dissenters,” or “non-conforming” Protestants : —
This Day is Published a Neat Elziver Edition of
Dean Sherlock’s Preservative against Popery in two Parts. The first being some plain Directions how to dispute with Romish Priests. The Second shewing how contrary Popery is to the true Ends of the Christian Religion. Both fitted for the Instruction of unlearned Protestants. Printed for D. Brown, J. Walthoe, J. Nicholson, B. Tooke, J. Pemberton and T. Ward.
A Sermon Preach’d at Patrixbourne, near Canterbury; proving that Dissenters are impos’d upon by their Teachers, and that they ought to conform to the Church of England, as by Law establish’d. With a Preface to shew their Mistake, about the Act of Exemption, and that they can have no Claim to that Indulgence, without certain Conditions therein mention’d. By J. Bowtell, B. D., Fellow of St. John’s College in Cambridge. Printed for R. Knaplock at the Bishop’s-Head in St. Paul’s Church-yard. Price 3d.
The dissenters, however, were not without their own pamphleteer champions, as the following shows: —
The charge of Schism against the Dissenters, Discharg’d ; in Reply to a Tract of the Reverend Mr. Norris on this Subject ; wherein the Extent of the Toleration-Act is consider’d, and it ’s prov’d that by Virtue of it, the Dissenters are no longer Offenders against Human Laws by their Separation, and that they are not guilty of Schism by Virtue of any Law of God. By S. Brown, Minister of Portsmouth. Printed for J. Lawrence, at the Angel in the Poultrey.
An interesting series of advertisements has to do with the death of Queen Anne and the accession of George I, August 1, 1714. “The Mausoleum, a Poem, sacred to the Memory of her late Majesty Queen Anne, by Mr. Theobald,” was so popular as to warrant a second edition. “ Edward Young, Fellow of All-Souls College, Oxon.,” afterwards author of Night Thoughts, marked the occasion by “A Poem on the Late Queen’s Death, and His Majesty’s Accession to the Throne, Inscribed to Joseph Addison, Esq., Secretary to their Excellencies the Lords Justices.”
How ludicrously fulsome were some of these productions — concerning a monarch whose character, Green says, “as nearly approached insignificance as it is possible for human character to approach it;” whose “temper” was that of a “gentleman usher;” whose “one care was to get money for his favourites and himself;” and whose chief public virtue was that he “frankly accepted the irksome position of a constitutional king,” — is shown by “A Poem on the Accession of His Majesty King George, Inscrib’d to his Grace the Duke of Marlborough,” which is entitled “Augustus.”
A suggestion of the amusing ignorance of the people in general concerning the personality of the rather contemptible princeling, who had been sent for overseas in order “to serve the nation’s turn” as figurehead of the government, is furnished by this advertisement: —
This Day is published,
An Account of the Courts of Prussia and Hanover : Sent to a Minister of State in Holland. In which are contain’d the Characters of the Elector of Hanover, now King of England; tbe Electoral Prince, Duke of Cambridge, and others of that illustrious Family. To which are added, The Ordinances and Statutes of the Royal Academy erected by the King of Prussia at Berlin. And the Declaration of the Elector Palatine in favour of his Protestant Subjects. All three publish’d by Mr. Toland. Sold by J. Roberts in Warwick-Lane, J. Harrison at the Royal-Exchange, A. Dodd without Temple-Bar, and J. Graves in St. James’s Street. Price in Sheep 2s. in Calf 2s. Gd.
In view of their almost total lack of information concerning the new king, it was no wonder there was considerable curiosity at least to see him — a feeling which is indicated by notices like the following, which was printed Friday, September 17, 1714: —
The Golden Lion in Cheapside, by Mercers Chapel, is conmmdiously fitted with Benches, and is to be Let either entire, Balcony and Dining Room seperate, or otherwise in single Places to Gentlemen and Ladies who are minded to see the Royal Entrance of His Majesty. Inquire at the Anchor in Friday-street near Cheapside. N. B. Here Ladies won’t be discommoded with the ill Conveniency of being confin’d to their Places, as they must in publick Stands ; nor may they fear the Night’s Approach ere the Cavalcade be past.
We are reminded by the following of the almost indecent haste with which, after the death of Queen Anne, this sorry successor to the great Edwards, Henrys, and Williams formally assumed their regalia: —
This Day is published,
The Second Edition of an Exact Account of the Form and Ceremony of His Majesty’s Coronation, as it was solemnly perform’d in the Collegiate Church at Westminster, on Wednesday the 20th of this Instant October, price 5d. Sold by J. Baker in Pater-nosterrow. . , .
These never-reprinted advertisements are interesting, moreover, for other reasons than the explanation they afford of oblique allusions in the literature of the time; they are valuable for more than the light they throw upon obscure details of literary and political history. When supplemented by the advertisements, the main essays give a much clearer notion of what sort of place was London when, early those foggy mornings, the “ Sheetsful of Thoughts for the benefit of Contemporaries ” were sent by Sam Buckley, the printer “at the Dolphin in Little Britain,” around to “ A. Baldwin in WarwickLane,” and to “ Charles Lillie, Perfumer, at the corner of Beauford-Buildings in the Strand,” where they were sold. From the quaintly worded notices of mercers, snuffdealers, lotteries, quacks, booksellers,— of all who catered to the world of fashion, — we can reconstruct many of the details of scenes later in the day, when, lounging in their morning gowns, scholars at the Grecian and wits at Will’s Coffee House tried to “ smoak ” the author of that morning’s essay.
Then, nearer noon, after a night at the Duchess of Hamilton’s “ drum,” or Her Grace of Shrewsbury’s “ rout,” we can fancy Lady Jane Hyde, Lady Betty Harley, Lady Betty Butler, Miss Forrester or some other of the “ top toasts,” or other of Her Majesty’s maids of honor, signalizing her awakening by three tugs at the bell-rope and as many raps with a slipper on the floor. Woe to the little Negro — in Turkish costume and with a silver collar, bearing his mistress’s name, riveted about his neck —if, with the rolls and the “dishes” of tea or chocolate, he failed to bring, as an indispensable “ Part of the Tea Equipage,” that day’s Spectator! We can imagine milady sipping her Bohea or her “ Chocolate made from the best Cracco nuts,” and her exclamations, as she read — under what to her doubtless were the thin disguises of “ Sempronia,” “ Flavia,” “Florinda,” of “Cynthio” or “Lionel” — of the follies of some members of the fashionable world. We may see her pouting prettily at “ The Exercise of the Fan,” or smiling — let us hope blushing a little also — at the letters concerning escapades at Tunbridge of “Rachel Shœ string,” “ Sarah Trice,” and “Alice Bluegarter.”
We may be reasonably certain, moreover, that she did not overlook the advertisements of “ fresh and clean Parcels of Silk Gowns;” of “ cosmaticks ” and “beauty doctors;” of “great Pennyworths ” in “ Macklyn and Brussels Lace,” in “ Hooped Petticoats,” in “ extraordinary fine Bohee Tea.” Let us be so rude as to peep over her paper now and see what it is that so especially amuses her. Ah! here it is: —
The highest Compounded Spirit of Lavender: The most Glorious (if the Expression may be us’d) Enlivening Scent and Flavour that can possibly be: In Vapours, sick Fits, Faintings, &c. finest too, or dropt upon a bit of Loaf-Sugar, and eaten or dissolv’d in Wine, Coffee, Tea, or what Liquor you please, so charms the Spirits, delights the Gust, and gives such Airs to the Countenance, as are not to be imagin’d but by those that have try’d it. The meanest Sort of the thing is admir’d by most Gentlemen and Ladies, but this far more, as by far it exceeds it, to the gaining among all a more than common Esteem. Is sold only (in neat Flint Bottles fit for the Pocket) at 3s. 6d. each, at the Golden-Key in Warton’s-Court, near Holborn-Bars.
Addison himself had previously commented upon the “ Ciceronian Manner ” of this. Although, with him, we cannot fail to “ recommend ” the “several Flowers in which this Spirit of Lavender is wrapped up (‘if the Expression may be us’d’),” we cannot but regret the inevitable conclusion that fashionable ladies read and secretly acted upon advertisements similar to the following — inevitable because the frequency with which such notices appeared in the Spectator is a sure sign they were “ getting results.”
The famous Bavarian Red Liquor:
Which gives such a delightful blushing Colour to the Cheeks of those that are White or Pale, that it is not to be distinguished from a natural fine Complexion, nor perceived to be artificial by the nearest Friend. Is nothing of Paint, or in the least hurtful, but good in many Cases to be taken inwardly. It renders the Face delightfully handsome and beautiful; is not subject to be ruhb’d off like Paint, therefore cannot be discover’d by the nearest Friend. It is certainly the best Beautifier in the World. Is sold only at Mr. Payn’s Toyshop at the Angel and Crown in St. Paul’s Church-yard near Cheapside, at 3s. 6d. a Bottle, with Directions.
By the same reasoning from the persistent advertising of many remedies for what the writer of a letter in the Spectator characterizes as “ this fashionable reigning Distemper,” we may conclude that the novelists and essayists of the eighteenth century were not exaggerating when they afflicted their heroines with frequent attacks of “ the Vapours.” “ A Treatise of the Hypochondriack and Hysterick Passions, vulgarly called the HYPO in Men and VAPOURS in Women,” was advertised, as well as many nostrums of which the following is a typical notice: —
The Vapours in Women infallibly Cured in an Instant, so as never to return again, by an admirable Chymical Secret, a few drops of which takes off a Fit in a Moment, dispels Sadness, clears the Head, takes away all Swimming, Giddiness, Dimness of Sight, Flushings in the Face, &c. to a Miracle, and most certainly prevents the Vapours returning again ; for by Rooting out the very Cause it perfectly Cures as Hundreds have experienc’d : It . . . causes Liveliness and settled Health. Is sold only at Mrs. Osborn’s, Toy-shop, at the Rose and Crown under St. Dunstan’s Church in Fleet-street, at 2s. Od. the Bottle, with directions.
Now, assuming our time is our own to kill in manner approved for young men about town, let us “ take the air ” after our call upon milady — a not unprecedented call, by the way. For, on the authority of Addison and other writers, if it was not usual in the age of the Spectator for a gentlewoman to see men before she was out of bed, it had been very common but a few years before; and, throughout the eighteenth century, all “ ladies of quality,” while making their toilet, received friends.
We have now made our congés, however, and, with the mincing gait affected by gentlemen of quality, have tiptoed out of doors. Now we begin to work our way slowly through the narrow, foulsmelling streets, rutty and puddly, with only a row of stone posts to separate pedestrians from the crowd of chairs, coaches, “ leather-bodied chariots,” drays; streets resonant with the oaths of chairmen and carters, with the cries of seventy-four or more different kinds of itinerant tradesmen; streets overhung with hundreds of creaking signs representing “ blue Boars, black Swans, and red Lions; not to mention flying Pigs, and Hogs in Armour, with many other Creatures more extraordinary than any in the Desarts of Ajrick” On foot if we will, splashed with mud from the “ kennel,” yielding the coveted place next the wall to “ serving-wenches ” and poor gentlewomen with pinned-up petticoats, and disputing for it with apprentices and gorgeous swaggering guardsmen, with beaux in red-heeled shoes, with tradesmen and pickpockets; or in a coach or chair — if we would keep our clothes immaculate — we go to Saint James’s Park to saunter up and down the Mall. Or, maybe, we wish to go to a coffee-house to see if our numbers are among those posted as having drawn prizes in one of the lotteries, or to read the latest Newsletter from the Continent.
Or, perhaps, we are sufficiently interested in some of the editions of the “ Works of Mr. Congreve,” of “ Mr. John Milton,” or of " Mr. Dryden,” " printed with a neat Elziver Letter in small Pocket Volumes,” to stop at some of the booksellers, such as " Jacob Tonson at Shakespear’s head over-against Catherine-street in the Strand,” " Bernard Lintott at the Cross-Keys between the two Temple Gates in Fleetstreet,” “J. Morphew near Stationer’s Hall,” “ Owen Lloyd near the Church in the Temple,” “T. Osborn in Grays-Inn near the Walks,” or " W. Taylor at the Ship in Pater-Noster Row.”
Or we may wish to attend a sale of what is advertised as “An extraordinary Collection of Original Paintings by the most eminent Masters, viz. Raphael, Titiano, Correggio, Guido Reni . . . Vandyke;” or an auction of the personal effects of some late gentleman “by Order of his Executioners” — for these sales, held usually between the hours of nine and one, are largely attended even by those who have no intention of buying. Or we may go to buy a pair of silk stockings, or a Steinkirk, or, at any rate, to ogle the pretty shopgirls in the “ New Exchange.” Here, doubtless, Swift bought for “Mrs.” Johnson and Mrs. Dingley the contents of that famous box, speculations upon the miscarriage of which occupy so much space in his Journal of letters. Some time between two and four, we go to dinner, at a friend’s house, at Pontack’s, or at some “ ordinary,” where we eat and drink heavily for an hour or more.
The early evening we may dawdle away at a coffee house, “ settling the Characters of My Lord Rochester and Boileau,” finishing “ the Merits of several Dramatick Writers,” or making “an End of the Nature of the True Sublime.” Or we may attend “ A Course of Experiments in order to demonstrate the Laws of the Gravitations of Fluids,” and the working of other physical forces, by “ Mr. Fra. Hauksbee, Sen. F. R. S.,” or “A compleat Course of Chimistry, consisting of above 100 Operations ... at the Laboratory of M. Edw. Bright, Chymist.”
If the season and weather are propitious, we may prefer, in the late afternoon or early evening, to put on a coat, like Dr. Swift’s, of light camlet, faced with red velvet and silver buttons, and go riding in Hyde Park or a few miles into the country. In “ the Ring,” or between fields and hedgerows, we shall probably see at least one of the more energetic of the reigning “ toasts,” dressed “ like a Man,” in “ an Equestrian Habit,” perhaps of “ Blue Camlet, well laced with Silver, being a Coat, Wastecoat, Petticoat, Hat and Feather.” If the rogue knows us, she will, perhaps, as she rides by, “ fly in the Face of Justice, pull off her Hat — with the Mein and Air of a young Officer, saying at the same Time, ‘ your Servant Mr. ——’.”
If our tastes run in that direction we may, on the other hand, go at five or six o’clock to “ Punch’s Theatre,” the puppet-show managed by Powell in the Little Piazza of Covent Garden, to hear the “ diverting Dialogue between Signior Punchanella and Madamoiselle Sousabella Pignatella, and other Diversions too long to insert here.” Or we may visit such continuous performances of what were called “ moving Pictures,” as “ Mr. Penkethman’s Wonderful Invention, call’d the Pantheon: Or, the Temple of the Heathen-gods. The Work of several Years and great Expence . . . the Figures [of] which are above 100, and move their Heads, Legs, Arms, and Fingers, so exactly to what they perform . . . that it justly deserves’to be esteem’d the greatest Wonder of the Age.” Or we may marvel at “ The Lest Man and Hors in the World,” previously mentioned; or at “An Entertainment by Mr. CLINCH of BARNET, who imitates the Flute, Double Curtel, the Organ with 3 Voices, the Horn, Huntsman and Pack of Hounds, the Sham-Doctor, the Old Woman, the Drunken-Man, the Bells: All Instruments . . . performed by his natural Voice.”
“At the Duke of Marlborough’s Head in Fleet-street, in the great Room, is to be seen the famous Posture-Master of Europe who . . . extends his Body into all deformed Shapes; makes his Hip and Shoulder Bones meet together . . . stands upon one Leg, and extends the other in a perpendicular line half a Yard above his Head. . . . Likewise a Child of about 9 Years of Age, that shews such Postures as never was seen perform’d by one of his Age. Also the famous English Artist, who . . . takes an empty Bag, which after being turn’d, trod, and stampt on, produces some Hundreds of Eggs, and at last a living Hen,” and “ other Marvels too tedious to mention.”
Or we may attend “ the famous Water-Theatre of the late ingenious Mr. Winstanly,” which is “ at the lower End of Pickadilly, and is known by the Windmill on the Top of it.” Here are “ the greatest Curiosities in Water-works, the like was never perform’d by any . . . with several new Additions, as three Stages, Sea Gods and Goddesses, Nymphs, Mermaids and Satires, all of them playing of Water as suitable, and some Fire mingling with the Water, and Sea Triumphs round the Barrel that plays so many Liquors; all which is taken away after it hath perform’d its Part, and the Barrel is broken in Pieces before the Spectators.”
If it is a warm season, we may follow Sir Roger de Coverley’s example, and, embarking at the Temple Stairs with the old sailor who lost a leg at La Hogue, or with some other of the Thames boatmen, go to Spring-Garden (afterwards called Vauxhall), where, amidst the “ Walks and Bowers with the Choirs of Birds that sing upon the Trees, and the loose Tribe of People that walk under their Shades,” we may spend the evening.
If we are fond of music, we shall have several opportunities, during the season between December and May, to attend “ Consorts,” of which the following is a typical notice: —
For the Entertainment of his Highness Prince Eugene of Savoy, at Stationer’s-Hall,
On Monday next, being the 21st Instant, will be performed, a Consort of Vocal and Instrumental Musick to begin at 6 a Clock. Tickets are to be had at Charles Lillie’s, a Perfumer, at the Corner of Beauford Buildings in the Strand, and at Mr. Manship’s at the Temple Tavern in Fleetstreet, at 5s. each. No Person to be admitted without Tickets. N. B. The Tickets delivered for the 18th Instant at the Golden Balls in Hart-Street will be taken for the Entertainment.
Then there are frequent performances at the Queen’s Theatre, built in 1704 especially to provide a place for the performance of the Italian opera just coming into vogue. Here is the announcement of a performance in which Nicolini, the most famous tenor of Queen Anne’s day, sang the leading part: —
At the Queen’s Theatre in the HayMarket, to Morrow being Wednesday, the 11th Day of June, Signior Cbevaleri Nicolini Grimaldi will take his leave of England, in the last Italian Opera call’d Hercules. Boxes 8s. Pit 5s. First Gallery 2s. 6d. Upper Gallery 1s. C>cl. Boxes upon the Stage half a Guinea. To begin exactly at Seven. By Her Majesty’s Command, no Persons are to be admitted behind the Scenes.
Whatever we do on other evenings, we shall certainly spend one at the famous theatre which, in spite of rivals of all sorts, remains the principal place of amusement. Here is a typical notice: —
Bv Her Majesty’s Company of Comedians,
At the Theatre Royal in Drurv-Lane this present Tuesday, the 18th Day of Decernber, will be presented a Comedy call’d, The Tender Husband or the Accomplish’d Fools. For the Entertainment of the New Toasts, and several Ladies of Quality. The part of Biddy by Mrs. Oldfield, Sir Harry Gubbin by Mr. Bullock, Mr. Tipkin by Mr. Norris. Mr. Clerimont by Mr. Mills, Capt. Clerimont, by Mr. Wilks, Humphrey Gubbin by Mr. Penkethman, Mr. Pounce by Mr. Pack, Mrs. Clerimont by Mrs. Bradshaw, the Aunt by Mrs. Powell. To which (at the Desire of several Persons of Quality) will be added, a Farce of one Aet only, call’d, The Country Wake. The Part of Hob by Mr. Dogget, Sir. Thomas Testy by Mr. Bullock, Friendly by Mr. Pack, Flora by Mrs. Santlow.
From six or seven until ten, or thereabouts, — making our seats in the pit, in a box under the first gallery or on the stage, merely bases of operations, — we move about the play-house. When Mrs. Oldfield or Mr. Wilks is before us, perhaps we give attention: but, if we follow the highest fashion, we spend more time taking snuff with great periwigs and stars; in ridiculing the actors and the “ Poet; ” in confounding as “ clumsy awkward fellows ” the box-keepers, and the candle-snuffer who busies himself with the lights; and in buying fruit, and exchanging risqué witticisms with the pert, pretty orange-girls.
Thence we go directly to the carefully painted, powdered and patched young ladies of quality, who reply to our studiously impudent or ardent speeches with languishing glances, and with such irrelevant questions as whether we do not think Miss B-is a “ dowd ” or has a “ squint; ” whether we do not agree that the “ Saylor’s Jig ” and the “ Dance of Four Scaramouch’s,” sometimes introduced between the acts, are more entertaining than “ those dull speeches of Colley Cibber; ” or whether, on the whole, we do not prefer Mrs. Santlow, the dancer, to Mrs. Oldfield.
We wait, perhaps, until some beauty allows us the honor of handing her to the door and into her scarlet-lined chair; otherwise, whether the performance be over or not, we go about ten o’clock to “Tom’s or Will’s coffee houses, near adjoining, where there is ' picket ’ playing, and the best of conversation till midnight.” Or we may be invited to some of the great houses in Soho Square to play at basset or ombre. Or we may join a party of sad young dogs whose wanderings, after the theatre, are suggested by an advertisement : —
Lost on Thursday last the 3d Instant, or left in a Hackney Coach that took up Company at Drury-Lane Play-House and set them down at the three Tuna in Shandoisstreet, and from thence to Leaden hall-street, from thence to Park-street St. James’s, a green emerod Ring, enclosed with 8 Diamonds and 14 Sparks round the Hoop, and ingraved in the Inside an H, crowned with an Earl’s Coronet. If the said Coachman, or any other Person, will bring it to Mr. Charles Lillie’s the Corner of Beaufort Buildings, they shall receive 2 Guineas Reward ; or if offered to be sold or pawned you are desired to stop it, and the Reward abovesaid shall be paid.
Then there is the notorious masquerade, which is resorted to, not only by ladies and gentlemen of quality, but also by those of the purlieus of Covent Garden. We have all read Mr. Spectator’s satirical papers on this, and his burlesque advertisement of the “ eminent Italian Chirurgeon arriv’d from the Carnaval at Venice,” who holds forth “ within two Doors of the Masquerade,” and who “ draws Teeth without pulling off your Mask.”
But, if we have not been laughed into shame, we may attend what is thus advertised : —
At the Request of several Foreigners lately arrived, The Masquerade in Old Spring Garden, Charing Cross, will be this present Tuesday, being the First Day of May. Note, That upon this Occasion a Gentleman is pleased to give for the Diversion of the Masquers, an Entertainment of Musick, both Vocal and Instrumental, by some of the best Masters in London. This Entertainment will begin exactly at Ten a Clock. Tickets may be had at Mr. Thurmond’s in King’s Court, Russelstreet, Covent-Garden, and at the House in Spring Garden; price Half a Guinea. No person whatsoever to be admitted Unmask’d or Arm’d.
Probably some time between midnight and dawn, in a coach or chair if we are prudent and have not lost all our money “ at play,” or at least with a servant or link-boy, whose flambeau makes our way through the dim, wretched streets a little, less difficult and dangerous, we go to our lodgings, thinking ourselves fortunate indeed if we escape muddy clothes or barked shins, and the scarcely less nearly omnipresent dangers from highwaymen and Mohocks.
An interesting city is this we see in these advertisements, — an interesting and, in some aspects, a picturesque age; yet altogether different in character of detail from that drawn for us in pretty Eighteenth Century Vignettes for nice people, and in recent expurgated historical novels.
Indeed, the London of Queen Anne, as shown by present-day idealizers, has for us much the same illusion as persons in the stagebox at Drury Lane doubtless had for a country boy in the upper gallery. We cannot, at this distance, detect, in the soft candlelight, the dirt under the fine lady’s powder and patches, the snuff on her upper lip, or the rouge smeared from eyes to chin. We do not even surmise that she “ squints.” We cannot hear her vapid or even profane remarks, delivered with what seems such a charming, high-bred smile, to the gentleman who looks so grand, so distinguished, in his great powdered periwig, his neckcloth of Mechlin lace, and his coat glittering with embroidery and stars. We cannot note that his Steinkirk is “snuffbegrimed,” that his gold embroidery is slightly frayed, that his hands are not as clean as they should be, that his eyes are dulled by dissipation, that he reeks with wine. We do not know that he paid for his stars perhaps by the sale of places in church and state, by treachery to friends, by cruelty, by betrayals of public trust. We do not guess that physically, mentally, and morally he is corrupt. So, if only to make us more content with our own age, which, for all its faults, is on the average ever so much a better one in which to live, it is well occasionally to see this place, and yonder people near at hand, in the merciless sunlight of contemporary evidence.