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
Thursday, 2 October 2014
Holding up the mirror
(LONDON, 1751, about tea-time...)
"'Ere, are you Mr 'Ogarth?"
"Yes, I am. What can I do for you?"
"'S about that picture you got in your window."
"Ah yes, 'Gin Lane'. A satirical portrayal of modern society. I'm rather proud of it, actually; in fact, I'm planning to make a print of it to sell."
"It'll 'ave to go, squire."
"It's a bad influence, see? All that drunkenness and so on; it's offensive, like. The Beadle's on 'is way and 'e wants you to get rid of it; it's all part of 'is new plans for a sober October. Burning's best - it'd go up lovely on the fire!"
"You can't do that - it's a work of art!"
"Don't matter, squire; can't have a picture like that where people might see it and get the idea they wants a strong drink."
"But... but... the whole thing is meant to show the evils of drinking cheap spirits instead of good honest beer. It's satire!"
"Couldn't say anything to that, squire; Beadle's against beer too, he is. In fact, 'e's dead set against all that sort of thing. Now 'and it over before 'e gets 'ere and we'll be on our way. I'm sure you don't want any trouble now. After all, it's 'ardly as if it's a loss to future generations, is it?"
(Inspired, of course, by recent events in Clacton.)
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...