Social Life in Queen Anne's Reign, Volume I.

Ashton, John


CHAPTER VII: Daily Life (Men)

CHAPTER VII: Daily Life (Men)


PASSING to the social habits of the people, it is difficult where to commence the description. The men of the time were humdrum and prosaic-they went nowhere, at least according to our ideas-a journey to York, or so, was really fraught with peril and hardship, consequently no one ever moved about unless they were compelled. The suburbs were sparsely inhabited, and there was nothing much to see when one got there, except at or . 'Your Glass Coach will go to Hide Park for Air. The Suburb fools trudge to Lambs Conduit or Totnam; your sprucer sort of citizen gallop to Epsom, your Meckanick gross Fellows, showing much conjugal affection, strut before their wives, each with a Child in his Arms, to Islington or Hogsdon.' [1]  What a suburban holiday was like we may see in the following description, which, however, is somewhat condensed and revised: [2]  'Fearing Time should be Elaps'd and cut short our intended Pastime, we Smoak'd our Pipes with greater Expedition, in order to proceed on our Journey, which we began about Eleven a Clock; and marching thro' , found half the People we either met, or overtook, equip'd for Hunting; walking backwards and forwards, as I suppose, to shew one another their Accoutrements. The City Beaus in Boots as black as Jet, which shin'd, by much rubbing, like a stick of Ebony; their Heels arm'd with Spurs, the travelling weapons to defend the Rider from the Laziness of his Horse, carefully


preserv'd bright in a Box of Cotton, and dazzled in the eyes of each beholder like a piece of Looking glass; their Wastes hoop'd round with Turkey Leather Belts, at which hung a Bagonet, or short Scymitar, in order to cut their Mistresses Names upon the trees of the Forest: In the right Hand a Whip, mounted against the Breast like the Scepter of a King's Statue upon the Change, adorn'd with twisted Wiggs and crown'd with edg'd Casters; being all over in such Prim and Order, that you could scarce distinguish them from Gentlemen. Amongst 'em were many Ladies of the same Quality, ty'd up in Safeguards so be-knotted with their two penny Taffaty, that a Man might guess by their Finery, their Fathers to be Ribbond Weavers. We crowded along, mix'd among the Herd, and could not but fancy the major part of the Citizens were Scampering out of town to avoid the Horse Plague. We mov'd forward, without any discontinuance of our Perambulation, till we came to the Globe at Mile End, where a Pretious Mortal made us a Short hand complement, and gave us an Invitation to a Sir-Loine of Roast Beef, out of which Corroborating Food we renew'd our Lives; and strengthening our Spirits with a Flask of rare Claret, took leave of my Friend's Acquaintance and so proceeded.

'By this time the Road was full of Passengers, every one furnish'd with no small Appetite to Veal and Bacon. Citizens in Crowds, upon Pads, Hackneys, and Hunters; all upon the Tittup, as if he who Rid not a Gallop was to forfeit his Horse. Some Spurring on with that speed and chearfulness, as if they intended never to come back again: Some Double, and some Single. Every now and then drop'd a Lady from her Pillion, another from her Side Saddle; Sometimes a Beau would tumble and dawb his Boots, which, to shew his Neatness, he would clean with his Handkerchief. In this order did we March, like Aaron's Proselites, to Worship the Calf, till we came to the New rais'd Fabrick call'd Mob's Hole, where the Beast was to be Eaten. We press'd hard to get into the House, which we found so full, that when I was in, what with the smell of Sweat, Stinking Breaths and Tobacco, I thought there was but a few Gasps between the Place and Eternity. Some were Dancing to a Bag pipe; others Whistling to a Base


Violin, two Fidlers scraping Lilla burlero, [3]  my Lord Mayor's [4]  Delight, upon a Couple of Crack'd Crowds,[5]  and an old Oliverian trooper tootling upon a Trumpet.' After a rest and some liquid refreshment, they chatted and bantered with the holiday folk, until ' from thence went into the Kitchin, Built up of Furzes, in the Open Air, to behold their Cookery; where the Major part of the Calf was Roasting upon a Wooden Spit: Two or three great Slivers he had lost off his Buttocks, his Ribs par'd to the very Bone, with holes in his Shoulders, each large enough to bury a Sevil Orange, that he looked as if a Kennel of Hounds had every one had a Snap at him. Under him lay the Flitch of Bacon of such an Ethiopian Complection, that I should rather have guess'd it the side of a Blackamore: It looking more like a Cannibal's Feast than a Christian Entertainment.
Being soon glutted with the view of this unusual piece of Cookery, we departed from thence, and hearing a great bustle in the Upper Room of an Outhouse, we went up Stairs to see what was the matter, where we found a poor Fidler, scraping over the tune of Now Ponder Well you Parents Dear; [6]  and a parcel of Country People Dancing and crying to 't. The Remembrance of the Uncles Cruelty to the poor Innocent Babes, and the Robin Red Breasts Kindness, had fix'd in their very Looks such Signs of Sorrow and Compassion, that their Dancing seem'd rather a Religious Worship, than a Merry Recreation. Having thus given ourselves a Prospect of all that the place afforded, we return'd to , where we got a Coach, and from thence to London.'

This stay-at-home lot naturally disliked all who differed from them; and their especial hatred, on whom all their vials


of wrath was poured out, and who provoked their most pungent satire, was the travelled fop who had brought back with him Continental ideas and fashions. In this matter John Bull, until he began to move about a bit, has always been most conservative. Anything 'un-English' was certain of condemnation, and of course, during the war, the French, and all belonging to them, were especially hated.

Our Native Speech we must forget, ere long, To learn the French, that much more Modish Tongue. Their Language smoother is, hath pretty Aires; But ours is Gothick, if compar'd with theirs. The French by Arts of smoother Insinuation, Are now become the Darlings of the Nation; His Lordship's Valet must be bred in France, Or else he is a Clown without Pretence : The English Blockheads are in Dress so coarse, They're fit for nothing, but to rub a Horse, Her Ladyship's ill-manner'd or ill-bred, Whose Woman, Confident, or Chamber Maid, Did not in France suck in her first breathed Air, Or did not gain hir Education there; Our Cooks in dressing have no Skill at all. They're only fit to serve an Hospital, Or to prepare a Dinner for a Camp; French Cooks are only of the Modish Stamp.


These affectations offended our insularity, and, probably, the following sketch was not at all ungenerous or uncalled for:-

And he who to his Fancy puts no Stop, Goes out a Fool, and may return a Fop; And after he Six Months in France has been, Comes home a most Accomplish'd


quin, Drest in a tawdry Suit at Paris made, For which he more than thrice the Value paid. French his Attendants, French alone his Mouth Can speak, his native Language is uncouth. If to the Ladies he does make Advance, His very Looks must have the Air of France, The English are so heavy and so dull, As if with Lead, not Brains, their Heads were full. But the brisk Frenchman, by his subtil Art, Soon finds Access to any Lady's Heart.


And again,[8]  ' Then before they can Conster and Pearse,[9]  they are sent into France with sordid illiterate Creatures, call'd Dry'd Nurses, or Governours; Engines of as little use as Pacing Saddles, and as unfit to Govern 'em as the Post Horses they ride to Paris on; From whence they return with a little smattering of that mighty Universal Language, without being ever able to write true English.'

If these descriptions be true, and they are so numerous and widely scattered as to leave little doubt of it, the young fellow came back a fribble, an emasculated nothing, except as regards his periwig, his clothes, and his snuff-box. [10]  But Art surpasses Nature; and we find Men may be transformed into Womankind -a creature who 'can Sing, and Dance, and play upon the Guitar; make Wax Work, and Fillagree, and Paint upon Glass ' [11] -who swore pretty little oaths--odsbodikins ![12]  oh me! and never stir alive! or blister me![13]  impair my vigour!

enfeeble me ! or could say to a lady,[14]  Madam, split me, you are very impertinent! who painted himself [15]  'purely to oblige the ladies,' -and who, when he met a friend, must needs fall a-kissing him, described in one old play as 'the Embracing[16]  and the fulsome Trick you Men have got of Kissing one another.' Or, as in another play, one of those travelled pretty dears says, [17]  'Sir-You Kiss Pleasingly-I love to Kiss a Man, in Paris we kiss nothing else.'

What was their life composed of, and how did they spend it ? Naturally they got up late, breakfasted en deshabille, held a sort of levee, till it was time to go to White's or the Cocoa Tree, or else lounged in the Mall, where describes the scene as 'It seem'd to me as if the World was turn'd Top-Side turvy; for the ladies look'd like undaunted


Heroes, fit for Government or Battle, and the Gentlemen like a parcel of Fawning, Flattering Fops, that could bear Cuckoldom with Patience, make a Jest of an Affront, and swear themselves very faithful and humble Servants to the Petticoat; Creeping and Cringing in dishonour to themselves, to what was decreed by Heaven their Inferiours ; as if their Education had been amongst Monkeys, who (as it is said) in all cases give the Pre-eminence to their Females.' Or perhaps he would lounge down to the Exchange to buy a pair of gloves or a sword knot, and, under any circumstances, to ogle the shop girls. 's language may be a little rough, but it is sound, and it touches one of the social cankers of the day. Then dinner at Pontac's, or some ordinary; then a little more coffee-house, and a wind up at some side box-favourite haunt of beaus-at the play, where probably other of the jeunesse doree-this time those who had received a home education-would arrive; would-be men-about-town,things of sixteen years old or so-whose future development would be first Mohock, then sot:[18]  'Such as come Drunk and Screaming into a Play House, and stand upon the Benches, and toss their full Perriwigs and empty Heads, and with their shrill unbroken Pipes, cry Dam me, this is a Damn'd Play.' A little Tunbridge or Bath in the season, and this was the sum of their existence, which, if the money held out, lasted until they either physically rotted, or settled down to married life! sated and blase;, or, if it was soon spent, and the brilliant meteor had flashed its course across the heavens, there was nothing but the living death of the debtors' gaol, from which release was next to impossible.


[1] The Virtuoso, ed. 1704.

[2] The London Spy.

[3] See Appendix.

[4] See Appendix.

[5] Fiddles.

[6] See Appendix.

[7] The Baboon A-la mode, A Satyr against the French, ed. 1704.

[8] The Virtuoso.

[9] Construe and parse.

[10] Almonds for Parrots, ed. 1708.

[11] Tunbridge Walks.

[12] Tatler, No. 13.

[13] The Beau's Duel.

[14] Tatler, No. 2.

[15] St. James's Park, a Satyr, 1709.

[16] Tunbridge Walks.

[17] Love Makes a Man.

[18] The Virtuoso.