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suffer the punishment; because in this most reformed age, the virtues of a prime minister are no more to be suspected, than the chastity of Cæsar's wife.
It must be allowed, that the Beggars' Opera is not the first of Mr Gay's works, wherein he has been faulty with regard to courtiers and statesmen. For, to omit his other pieces, even in his fables, published within two years past, and dedicated to the Duke of Cumberland, for which he was promised a reward, he has been thought somewhat too bold upon the courtiers. And although it be highly probable he meant only the courtiers of former times, yet he acted unwarily, by not considering that the malignity of some people might misinterpret what he said to the disadvantage of present persons and affairs.
But I have now done with Mr Gay as a politician : and shall consider him henceforward only as author of the Beggars' Opera, wherein he has, by a turn of humour entirely new, placed vices of all kinds in the strongest and most odious light ; and thereby done eminent service both to religion and morality. This appears from the unparalleled success he has met with. All ranks, parties, and denominations of men, either crowding to see his opera, or reading it with delight in their closets ; even ministers of state, whom he is thought to have most offended, (next to those whom the actors represent,) appearing frequently at the theatre, from a consciousness of their own innocence, and to convince the world how unjust a parallel, malice, envy, and disaffection to the government, have made.
I am assured that several worthy clergymen in this city went privately to see the Beggars' Opera represented : and that the fleering coxcombs in the pit amused themselves with making discoveries, and spreading the names of those gentlemen round the audience.
I shall not pretend to vindicate a clergyman who would appear openly in his habit at the theatre, with such a vicious crew as might probably stand round him, at such comedies and profane tragedies as are often represented. Besides, I know very well, that persons of their function are bound to avoid the appearance of evil, or of giving cause of offence. But when the lords chancellors, who are keepers of the king's conscience; when the judges of the land, whose title is reverend ; when ladies, who are bound by the rules of their sex to the strictest decency, appear in the theatre without censure; I cannot understand, why a young clergyman, who comes concealed out of curiosity to see an innocent and moral play, should be so highly condemned ; nor do I much approve the rigour of a great prelate, who said," he hoped none of his clergy were there.” I am glad to hear there are no weightier objections against that reverend body, planted in this city, and I wish there never may. But I should be very sorry that any of them should be so weak, as to imitate a court chaplain * in England, who preached against the Beggars' Opera, which will probably do more good than a thousand sermons of so stupid, so injudicious, and so prostitute a divine.
In this happy performance of Mr Gay's, all the characters are just, and none of them carried beyond nature, or hardly beyond practice. It discovers the whole system of that commonwealth, or that imperium in imperio of iniquity established among us, by which neither
* Dr Thomas Herring, afterwards primate, then preacher at Lincoln's Inn.
our lives nor our properties are secure, either in the highways, or in public assemblies, or even in our own houses. It shews the miserable lives, and the constant fate, of those abandoned wretches: for how little they sell their lives and souls; betrayed by their whores, their comrades, and the receivers and purchasers of those thefts and robberies. This comedy contains likewise a satire, which, without inquiring whether it affects the present age, may possibly be useful in times to come; I mean, where the author takes the occasion of comparing the common robbers of the public, and their several stratagems of betraying, undermining, and hanging each other, to the several arts of the politicians in times of corruption.
This comedy likewise exposes, with great justice, that unnatural taste for Italian music among us, which is wholly unsuitable to our northern climate, and the genius of the people, whereby we are overrun with Italian 'effeminacy, and Italian nonsense. An old gentleman said to me, that many years ago, when the practice of an unnatural vice grew frequent in London, and many were prosecuted for it, he was sure it would be the forerunner of Italian operas and singers; and then we should want nothing but stabbing, or poisoning, to make us perfect Italians.
Upon the whole, I deliver my judgment, that nothing but servile attachment to a party, affectation of singularity, lamentable dulness, mistaken zeal, or studied hypocrisy, can have the least reasonable objection against this excellent moral performance of the celebrated Mr Gay.
THE INTELLIGENCER, No. XIX.
Sic vos non vobis vellera fertis, oves.
Having, on the 12th of October last, received a letter
signed ANDREW DEALER, and PATRICK PENNYLESS, I believe the following PAPER, just come to my hands, will be a sufficient answer to it.
County of Down, Dec. 2, 1728. I am a country gentleman, and a member of Parliament, with an estate of about 14001. a-year; which, as a Northern landlord, I receive from above two hundred tenants: and my lands having been let near twenty years ago, the rents, until very lately, were esteemed to be not above half value; yet, by the intolerable scarcity of silver, I lie under the greatest difficulties in receiving them, as well as paying my labourers, or buying anything necessary for my family, from tradesmen who are not able to be long out of their money. But the sufferings of me, and those of my rank, are trifles in comparison of what the meaner sort undergo : such as the buyers and sellers at fairs and markets; the shopkeepers in every town; and farmers in general; all those who travel with fish, poultry, pedlary-ware, and other conveniences to sell : but more especially handicraftsmen, who work for us by the day; and common labourers, whom I have already mentioned. Both these kinds of people Į am forced to employ, until their wages amount to a double pistole, or a moidore, (for we hardly have any gold of lower value left us,) to divide it among themselves as they can : and this is generally done at an alehouse, or brandy shop; where, besides the cost of getting drunk, (which is usually the case,) they must pay tenpence, or a shilling, for changing their piece into silver, to some huckstering fellow, who follows that trade. But, what is infinitely worse, those poor men, for want of due payment, are forced to take up their oatmeal, and other necessaries of life, at almost double value; and consequently are not able to discharge half their score, especially under the scarceness of corn for two years past, and the melancholy disappointment of the present crop.
The causes of this, and a thousand other evils, are clear and manifest to you and all thinking men, although hidden from the vulgar: these indeed complain of hard times, the dearth of corn, the want of money, the badness of seasons; that their goods bear no price, and the poor cannot find work; but their weak reasonings never carry them to the hatred and contempt borne us by our neighbours and brethren, without the least grounds of provocation ; who rejoice at our sufferings, although sometimes to their own disadvantage. They consider not the dead weight upon every beneficial branch of our trade ; that half our revenues are annually sent to England ; with many other grievances peculiar to this unhappy kingdom, which keeps us from enjoying the common benefits of mankind; as you and some other lovers of their country have so often observed, with such good inclinations, and so little effect. It is true indeed, that under our circumstances in
general, this complaint for the want of silver may appear as ridiculous, as for a man to be impatient about a cut