Wednesday, May 7, 1712. Steele.
‘Pudet haec opprobria nobis
[Et dici potuisse et non potuisse refelli.]’
May 6, 1712.
I am Sexton of the Parish of Covent-Garden, and complained to you some time ago, that as I was tolling in to Prayers at Eleven in the Morning, Crowds of People of Quality hastened to assemble at a Puppet-Show on the other Side of the Garden. I had at the same time a very great Disesteem for Mr. Powell and his little thoughtless Commonwealth, as if they had enticed the Gentry into those Wandrings: But let that be as it will, I now am convinced of the honest Intentions of the said Mr. Powell and Company; and send this to acquaint you, that he has given all the Profits which shall arise to-morrow Night by his Play to the use of the poor Charity-Children of this Parish. I have been informed, Sir, that in Holland all Persons who set up any Show, or act any Stage-Play, be the Actors either of Wood and Wire, or Flesh and Blood, are obliged to pay out of their Gain such a Proportion to the honest and industrious Poor in the Neighbourhood: By this means they make Diversion and Pleasure pay a Tax to Labour and Industry. I have been told also, that all the time of Lent, in Roman Catholick Countries, the Persons of Condition administred to the Necessities of the Poor, and attended the Beds of Lazars and diseased Persons. Our Protestant Ladies and Gentlemen are so much to seek for proper ways of passing Time, that they are obliged to Punchinello for knowing what to do with themselves. Since the Case is so, I desire only you would intreat our People of Quality, who are not to be interrupted in their Pleasure to think of the Practice of any moral Duty, that they would at least fine for their Sins, and give something to these poor Children; a little out of their Luxury and Superfluity, would attone, in some measure, for the wanton Use of the rest of their Fortunes. It would not, methinks, be amiss, if the Ladies who haunt the Cloysters and Passages of the Play-house, were upon every Offence obliged to pay to this excellent Institution of Schools of Charity: This Method would make Offenders themselves do Service to the Publick. But in the mean time I desire you would publish this voluntary Reparation which Mr. Powell does our Parish, for the Noise he has made in it by the constant rattling of Coaches, Drums, Trumpets, Triumphs, and Battels. The Destruction of Troy adorned with Highland Dances, are to make up the Entertainment of all who are so well disposed as not to forbear a light Entertainment, for no other Reason but that it is to do a good Action. I am, SIR, Your most humble Servant, Ralph Bellfry.
I am credibly informed, that all the Insinuations which a certain Writer made against Mr. Powell at the Bath, are false and groundless.
My Employment, which is that of a Broker, leading me often into Taverns about the Exchange, has given me occasion to observe a certain Enormity, which I shall here submit to your Animadversion. In three or four of these Taverns, I have, at different times, taken notice of a precise Set of People with grave Countenances, short Wiggs, black Cloaths, or dark Camlet trimmd with Black, and mourning Gloves and Hatbands, who meet on certain Days at each Tavern successively, and keep a sort of moving Club. Having often met with their Faces, and observed a certain slinking Way in their dropping in one after another, I had the Curiosity to enquire into their Characters, being the rather moved to it by their agreeing in the Singularity of their Dress; and I find upon due Examination they are a Knot of Parish-Clarks, who have taken a fancy to one another, and perhaps settle the Bills of Mortality over their Half-pints. I have so great a Value and Veneration for any who have but even an assenting Amen in the Service of Religion, that I am afraid lest these Persons should incur some Scandal by this Practice; and would therefore have them, without Raillery, advised to send the Florence and Pullets home to their own Houses, and not pretend to live as well as the Overseers of the Poor. I am, SIR, Your most humble Servant, Humphry Transfer.