A rogues' gallery of mountebanks, charlatans and scoundrels
Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay
Friday, 14 November 2008
A sick society
A story is emerging in the courts this week which has us wondering whether we have all been returned to 18th Century Newgate - a mother (partial to bawdy jokes about policemen) who conspires to kindnap and hide away her drugged child in order to secure a reward from well-meaning benefactors could have come straight from the easel of Hogarth or the pages of Swift or Defoe.
In fact it has been alleged that the plot was inspired by an episode of 'Shameless' broadcast a few weeks before. While Hogarth sought to document and combat social evils as well as to entertain, it seems his modern-day successors might actually be helping to create them.
Meanwhile in Haringey Baby P dies of ill-treatment and neglect. For some people the slums of Hogarth's London are very near indeed. (William Hogarth; Gin Lane)
Macheath, the notorious highwayman, has retired from a life of crime and can now be found behind the bar of Peachum's Tavern, favourite haunt of the rakes, rogues and vagabonds of 18th century Newgate and setting of 'The Beggars' Opera'. Visitors are always welcome; help yourself to a virtual tankard of ale and read on...