Pleasing Spectacles and Elegant Dinners: Conviviality, Benevolence, and Charity Anniversaries in Eighteenth-Century London
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 May 2013
As the number and interests of charitable institutions expanded throughout Britain during the eighteenth century, so special fund-raising events, anniversary celebrations, and meetings multiplied. During 1775, for example, the major metropolitan charities and a plethora of minor benevolent societies courted middle- and upper-class Londoners with invitations to concerts and exhibitions. Men could support various hospitals and other good causes by dining in taverns and City Livery Halls in company with civic and ecclesiastical dignitaries, even noble and royal dukes. Both men and women might attend charities' anniversary services, ornamented with special music and a sermon, choosing among dispensaries, hospitals, lying-in charities, religious societies, and various efforts to reform and reclaim the poor for public benefit. On Sundays, armed with tickets, special prayer books, and even keys to their rented pews, women and men might attend the chapel of a philanthropic institution. Alternatively, they could listen to a fund-raising sermon and watch charity-school children arrayed in the gallery of a parish church. Toward the end of the year, they might pay half a guinea each to hear Handel's Messiah in the Foundling Hospital Chapel or go to Covent Garden and Drury Lane to watch tragedies and farces. Charitable activity thus extended beyond churches, alms, and sermons into the theater. It spilled onto the streets as gentlemen processed to dinner; it accompanied art and music. Conversely, waves of fashion drove visitors to one philanthropic institution or another to see deserving recipients, hear a particularly popular preacher, or to be observed themselves.
- Research Article
- Copyright © North American Conference of British Studies 2002
1 Public Advertiser (January-December 1775). This is not a comprehensive account of charity events in London in 1775.
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34 The Charity for the Relief of the Poor Widows and Children of Clergymen (more commonly known as the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy) was founded in 1655 and granted a charter in 1678. First held in 1674, the festival raised an annual collection to apprentice clergymen's orphans (male and female). In 1749, the stewards who managed the festival established themselves as a separate society open to subscribers of both sexes to ensure a “constant succession of stewards” and educate clergymen's orphans until old enough to be apprenticed. Twelve stewards were appointed each year, and they paid the expenses of the festival. From 1753, the anniversary was held on the second Thursday in May, preceded on the previous Tuesday by the “Rehearsal” of music, an event that had developed into an important fund-raising event. Pearce, The Sons of the Clergy; Cox, Bridging the Gap.
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54 Charity Schools minutes, NS/SP/1/1, 11 April 1712. For examples of troublesome mothers, see St. Saviour's Girls' Charity School minutes, A/NWC/1, 1 July 1707; 9 November 1708; 3 May, 7 June and 4 October 1709; 14 January 1717; Welsh School minutes, vol. 3, 5 August 1765, 3 May 1773, 1 May 1775.
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57 For example, see the following from Charity Schools minutes: on precedency, NS/SP/1/1, 1 March 173; on badges, NS/SP/1/3, 14 January 1762; on porters, etc., NS/SP/1/3, 10 January 1771; NS/SP/1/3, 11 April 1765; NS/SP/1/3, 8 March 1770; on stewards, NS/SP/1/2, 12 February 1761; NS/SP/1/3, 9 April 1767; NS/SP/1/3, 11 April 1771.
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80 Sons of the Clergy minutes, A/FSC/1, 7 May 1795.
81 Sons of the Clergy minutes, A/FSC/1, 15 May 1781; for the Turkish ambassador's attendance at the 1798 anniversary, see Sons of the Clergy minutes, A/FSC/1, 10 May 1798.
82 Sons of the Clergy minutes, A/FSC/1, 9 May 1780 (“genteel to a degree”); 4 February 1783 (“very numerous and respectable company”); 6 March 1788 (“numerous Assemblage of the first Persons of Rank”); 14 May 1789 (“brilliant”); 18 May 1790 (“select”); 16 May 1793 (“splendid”); 5 May 1795 (“company thin”); Public Advertiser (10 May 1765) (“many reputable Citizens”); London Chronicle (13–15 May 1777) (“a very respectable and brilliant audience”); Daily Universal Register (11 May 1787) (“a pretty numerous assemblage of Ladies and Gentlemen”); The Times (15 May 1793) (“a very numerous and respectable audience”); The Times (21 May 1794) (“we never witnessed so large or so respectable an assemblage of all ranks of people on the like occasion as yesterday”).
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89 Habermas, Structural Transformation. There is a substantial literature on gender and the public sphere. See Goodman, Dena, “Public Sphere and Private Life: Toward a Synthesis of Current Historiographical Approaches to the Old Regime,” History and Theory 31 (1992): 1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Landes, Joan, “The Public and the Private Sphere: A Feminist Reconsideration” in Feminists Read Habermas: Gendering the Subject of Discourse, edited by Meehan, J. (London and New York, 1995), pp. 91–116Google Scholar; Klein, Lawrence E., “Gender and the Public/Private Distinction in the Eighteenth Century: Some Questions about Evidence and Analytic Procedure,” Eighteenth-Century Studies, 29 (1995): 97–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
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92 Rosser, , “Going to the Fraternity Feast,” pp. 436–37Google Scholar; Sons of the Clergy minutes, A/FSC/1, 8 March 1775; servants were also excluded from other charities' dinners; see, e.g., Public Advertiser (26 April 1775), the Asylum (advertisement).
93 For example, Public Advertiser (17 February 1752), Small-Pox Hospital (advertisement); London Chronicle (20–22 April 1769), London Hospital on the Sons of the Clergy discontinuing music at the hall in 1753, “as being thought not only useless, but disagreeable,” see Warren, , Sermon, p. 34Google Scholar.
94 Epstein, “Radical Dining.”
95 Sons of the Clergy minutes, A/FSC/1, 6 March 1788, 22 May 1783; dinner was provided for 240 at the 1779 anniversary dinner of the London and Westminster charity schools; see Charity Schools minutes, NS/SP/1/4, 6 May 1779.
96 Heal, Hospitality in Early Modern England; Nicholl, John, Ancient British Hospitality (sermon preached before the Society of Ancient Britons) (London, 1741)Google Scholar.
97 Sons of the Clergy minutes, A/FSC/1, 16 May 1793.
98 Sons of the Clergy minutes, A/FSC/1, 9 May 1775.
100 Sons of the Clergy minutes, A/FSC/1, 15 May 1781; see also 16 May 1786.
101 Sons of the Clergy minutes, A/FSC/1, 16 May 1793 (Bacon noted that it was fortunate that a dispute between the musicians occurred on the day following the anniversary “or such a Discord would have unharmonized the Day”); Goody, Jack, Cooking, Cuisine and Class: A Study in Comparative Sociology (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 11–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar; see also Phythian-Adams, , Desolation of a City, p. 110Google Scholar.
104 Public Advertiser (26 April 1753).
105 Key, , “Political Culture,” p. 239Google Scholar. Collection totals for 1775 were as follows: £210.16.3 at the rehearsal, £211.10.3 at the anniversary service, and £444.17.3 at the feast. Eminent supporters probably reserved their donations until the feast. Sons of the Clergy minutes, A/FSC/1, 9 May 1775, 11 May 1775.
107 Weekly-Journal or Saturday's-Post (7 December 1717).
108 Minutes do not survive for this period; in 1741, however, the stewards rejected French wine because of war with France. See Warren, , Sermon, p. 31Google Scholar.
109 London Chronicle (21–24 April 1764); see also Public Advertiser (6 May 1762) on Sons of the Clergy.
110 Sons of the Clergy minutes, A/FSC/1, 14 May 1782, 16 May 1793.
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114 The correspondence can be found in the Public Advertiser: “J.H.” (8 May 1777); “An old Steward of the Sons of the Clergy, and a Layman” (12 May 1777); “A Layman” (14 May 1777). For material identifying “J.H.,” see Hanway, , Defects of Police, pp. 275–77Google Scholar. Warren also entered into the debate in his Sermon at the 1778 anniversary (pp. 22–24).
117 Public Advertiser (24 April 1762). The hospital returned to this venue in subsequent years. See, e.g., Public Advertiser (5 June 1777); Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (16 May 1771).
118 For example, Hanway, Jonas, A Journal of Eight Days Journey from Portsmouth to Kingston upon Thames, … to Which is Added, an essay on Tea … (London, 1756)Google Scholar.
121 Ibid., p. 277; Sekora, John, Luxury: The Concept in Western Thought, Eden to Smollett (Baltimore, 1977), pp. 119–22Google Scholar.
122 Russell, Kennett, “Sermon,” pp. 51–52Google Scholar; Stanhope, , “Sermon,” p. 45Google Scholar; see also Snape, , “Sermon” (1711) in Twenty Five Sermons, p. 191Google Scholar; Andrew, , Philanthropy and Police, p. 80Google Scholar; Gillian, , The Theatres of War: Performance, Politics and Society, 1793–1815 (Oxford, 1995), pp. 137–39Google Scholar. In the 1760s, the Society of Musicians attempted to circumvent the bishop of London's restrictions on theatrical performances in Passion week by appealing to Archbishop Seeker, president of the Sons of the Clergy, and hinting that in return they would perform for nothing for that charity. See Lambeth Palace Library, Misc 1121, pp. 85–88.
123 Spectator, no. 294 (6 February 1712), and no. 372 (7 May 1712).
125 Brown, John, An Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times, 3d ed. (London, 1757), pp. 66–67Google Scholar.
127 Lloyd, “‘Pleasure's Golden Bait.’”
130 For example, Public Advertiser (28 March 1753), Middlesex Hospital (advertisement); General Advertiser (28 February 1752), Smallpox Hospital (advertisement).
131 Hannah More to one of her family, 1776, The Letters of Hannah More, Selected with an Introduction by R. Brimley Johnson (London, 1925), p. 30Google Scholar.
132 Public Advertiser (1 May 1753): “At the Desire of several Ladies of Distinction, there will be a charitable Collection, for the Benefit of poor Clergymens Daughters, upon the Delivery of the Tickets going into the Choir.” This is later subsumed into the more general statement that the collection “is appropriated for apprenticing the Sons and Daughters of necessitous Clergymen.” See Public Advertiser (28 April 1775).
133 “Arrangements for the Annual Meeting,” York Ladies Female Friendly Society, York City Archives, Ace 50 YL/FF:12, 14 May 1794; Cappe, Catharine, An Account of Two Charity Schools for the Education of Girls: And of a Female Friendly Society in York: Interspersed with Reflections on Charity Schools and Friendly Societies in General (York, 1800), pp. 71–72Google Scholar.
134 See also More to Wilberforce, 1791, The Letters of Hannah More, pp. 171–73.
135 Cappe, Catharine, Observations on Charity Schools, Female Friendly Societies, and Other Subjects Connected with the Views of the Ladies' Committee (York, 1805), p. ixGoogle Scholar.
137 Cappe, Catharine, Memoirs of the Late Mrs Catharine Cappe, Written by Herself (London, 1822), p. 392Google Scholar.
138 For conceptual problems concerning female sentiment and virtue, see Harkin, “Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments.”
140 Public Advertiser (3 May 1757).
141 For example, London Chronicle (12–14 June 1783) on charity schools.
142 Klein, “Gender and the Public/Private Distinction.”