Category Archives: 1720’s

Item of the Day: The Busy-Body. — No. II. (1728-9)

Found In: The Works of Benjamin Franklin; Containing Several Political and Historical Tracts not Included in any Former Edition, and Many Letters Official and Private not Hitherto Published; with Notes and A Life of the Author. By Jared Sparks. Vol. II. Boston: Hilliard, Gray and Company, 1836.


TUESDA, FEBRUARY 11, 1728-9.

All fools have still an itching to deride,

and fain would be upon the laughing side. (Pope)


Monsieur de la Rochefoucault  tells us somewhere in his Memoirs, that the Prince of Conde delighted much in ridicule, and used frequently to shut himself up for half a day together in his chamber, with a gentleman that was his favorite, purposely to divert himself with examining what was the foible or ridiculous side of every noted person in the court. That gentleman said afterwards in some company, that he thought nothing was more ridiculous in anybody, than this same humor in the Prince; and I am somewhat inclined to be of this opinion. The general tendency there is among us to this embellishment, which I fear has too often grossly imposed upon my loving countrymen instead of wit, and the applause it meets with from a rising generation, fill me with fearful apprehensions for the future reputation of my country. A young man of modesty (which is the most certain indication of large capacities) is hereby discouraged from attempting to make any figure in life; his apprehensions of being out-laughed will force him to continue in a restless obscurity, without having an opportunity of knowing his own merit himself or discovering it to the world, rather than venture to oppose himself in a place where a pun or a sneer shall pass for wit, noise for reason, and the strength of the argument be judged by that of the lungs.

Among these witty gentlemen let us take a view of Ridentius. What a contemptible figure does he make with his train of paltry admirers! This wight shall give himself an hour’s diversion with the cook of a man’s hat, the heels of his shoes, an unguarded expression in his discourse, or even some personal defect; and the height of his low ambition is to put some one of the company to the blush, who perhaps must pay an equal share of the reckoning with himself. If such a fellow makes laughing the sole end and purpose of his life, if it is necessary to his constitution, or if he has a great desire of growing suddenly fat, let him eat; let him give public notice where any dull stupid rogues may get a quart of four-penny for being laughed at; but it is barbarously unhandsome, when friends meet for the benefit of conversation and proper relaxation from business, that one should be the butt of the company, and four men made merry at the cost of the fifty.

How different from this character is that of the good-natured, gay Eugenius, who never spoke yet but with a design to divert and please, and who was never yet baulked in his intention. Eugenius takes more delight in applying the wit of his friends, than in being admired himself; and if any one of the company is so unfortunate as to be touched a little too nearly, he will make use of some ingenious artifice to turn the edge of ridicule another way, choosing rather to make himself a public jest, than be at the pain of seeing his friend in confusion.

Among the tribe of laughers, I reckon the petty gentlemen that write satires, and carry them about in their pockets, reading them themselves in all company they happen into; taking an advantage of the ill taste of the town to make themselves famous for a pack of paltry, low nonsense, for which they deserve to be kicked rather than admired, by all who have the least tincture of politeness. These I take to be the most incorrigible of all my readers; nay, I expect they will be squibbing at the Busy-Body himself. However, the only favor he begs of them is this, that if they cannot control their overbearing itch of scribbling, let him be attacked in downright biting lyrics; for there is no satire he dreads half so much as an attempt towards a panegyric.



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Filed under 1720's, Franklin, Magazine, Newspapers, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Proceedings of the Directors of the South-Sea Company (1721)

Full Title: The Proceedings of the Directors of the South-Sea Company, from the first Proposal of that Company, for the taking in the Publick Debts, February 1, 1719 to the Choice of New Directors, February 2, 1720. Wherein will be contained A Particular Account of the Debates in the General Courts of the said Company, during that Time, as likewise in those of the Bank of England, and East India Company, so far as they relate to the new Scheme for restoring the Publick Credit. Together with Divers other Matters and Occurrences, which either result from or serve to explain those Proceedings. To these are added the By-Laws of the South-Sea Company. London: Printed fro J. Roberts, near the Oxford-Arms in Warwick Lane, 1721.


To the Honourable the Commons of GREAT BRITAIN

in Parliamant Assembled.



The Corporation of the Governour and Company of Merchants of Great Britain trading to the South Seas and other Parts of America, and for Encouraging the Fishery, having under their Consideration how they may be most serviceable to His Majesty andHis Government; and to shew their Zeal and Readiness to concur in the Great and Honourable Design of Reducing the National Debts, in such Manner as may be consistent with, and for Support of Parliamentary Credit, Do humbly apprehend, that if the Publick Debts and Annuities mention’d in the Annexed Estimate were taken into, and made Part of the Capital Stock of the said Company, it would greatly contribute to the at most desirable End; which Debts and Annuities may be comprehended under the General Heads following, viz.

Annuities for Terms of Years.

Annuities granted for 99Years or 96Year, amounting to per Ann. 667,705 l. 8 s. 1 d. which at 20 Years Purchase, amounts to —- 13354108 01 08

Lottery 1710, remaining unsubscribed to the Company, about 40,670 l. 8 s. per Annum, which, at 14 Years Purchase, amounts to —- 569385 12 00

Annuities of 9 l. per Cent. amountting to 81,000 l. per Ann. at 14 Years Purchase, amounts to —- 1134000 00 00

Total Value of the said Annuities —- 15057493 13 08


Debts Redeemable by Parliament.

Total after the Rate of 5 l. per Cent. per Ann. —- 11795466 05 6 1/4

Total after the Rate of 4 l. per Cent. per Ann. —- 4128752 07 4

Total of the said Redeemable Debts —- 15924218 12 10 1/4

Therefore do humbly propose, that the said Company may be permitted to inlarge their present Stock by taking in the said Annuities and Debts, at any Time or Times, until Lady-Day, 1721 on the Terms and conditions following, viz. . . .


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Filed under 1720's, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, South Sea Company

Item of the Day: The Beggar’s Opera (1728)

Full Title: The Beggar’s Opera. As it is Acted at the Theatre-Royal in Lincolns-Inn-Fields. Written by Mr. Gay. The Second Edition, to which is Added, The Ouverture in Score; And the Musick prefix’d to each Song. London: Printed for John Watts, at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court, near Lincolns-Inn-Fields, MDCCXXVIII.



  1.  Through all the Employments of Life.

  2. ‘Tis Woman that seduces Mankind.

  3. If any Wench Venus’s Girdle wear.

  4. If Love the Virgin’s Heart invade.

  5. A Maid is like the golden Oar.

  6. Virgins are like the fair Flowere in its Lustre.

  7. Our Polly is a sad slut!nor heeds what we have thought her.

  8. Can Love be controul’d by Advice?

  9. O Polly, you might have toy’d and kist.

  10. I, like a Ship in Storms, was tost.

  11. A Fox may steal your Hens, Sir.

  12. Oh, ponder well! be not severe.

  13. The Turtle thus with plaintive crying.

  14. Pretty Polly, say.

  15. My Heart was so free.

  16. Were I laid on Greenland’s Coast.

  17. O what Pain it is to part!

  18. The Miser thus a Shilling sees.


  1. Fill ev’ry Glass, for Wine inspires us.

  2. Let us take the Road.

  3. If the Heart of a Man is deprest with Cares.

  4. Youth’s the Season made for Joys.

  5. Before the Barn-door crowing.

  6. The Gamesters and Lawyers are Jugglers alike.

  7. At the Tree I shall suffer with pleasure.

  8. Man may escape from Rope and Gun.

  9. Thus when a good Huswife sees a Rat.

  10. How cruel are the Traytors.

  11. The first time at the Looking-glass.

  12. When you censure the Age.

  13. Is then his Fate decreed, Sir?

  14. You’ll think e’er many Dasy ensue.

  15. If you are at an Office solicit your Due.

  16. Thus when the Swallow, seeking Prey.

  17. How happy could I be with either.

  18. I’m bubbled.

  19. Cease your Funning.

  20. Why how now, Madam Flirt.

  21. No Power on Earth can e’er divide.

  22. I like the Fox shall grieve.


  1. When young at the Bar you first taught me to score.

  2. My Love is all Madness and Folly.

  3. Thus Gamesters united in Friendship are found.

  4. The Modes of the Court so common are grown.

  5. What Gudgeons are we Men!

  6. In the Days of my Youth I could bill like a Dove, fa, la, la, &c.

  7. I’m like a Skiff on the Ocean tost.

  8. When a Wife’s in a Pout.

  9. A Curse attends that Woman’s Love.

  10. Among the Men, Coquets we find.

  11. Come, sweet Lass.

  12. Hither, dear Husband, turn your Eyes.

  13. Which way shall I turn me? –How can I decide.

  14. When my Hero in Court appears.

  15. When he holds up his Hand arraign’d for his Life.

  16. Our selves, like the Great, to secure a Retreat.

  17. The Charge is prepar’d; the Lawyers met.

  18. O cruel, cruel, cruel Case.

  19. Of all the Friends in time of Grief.

  20. Since I must swing, –I scorn, I scorn to wince or whine.

  21. But now again my Spirits sink.

  22. But Valour the stronger grows.

  23. If thus  ———- A Man can die.So I drink off this Bumper. –And now I can stand the Test.

  24. But I can leave my pretty Hussies.

  25. Their Eyes, their Lips, their Busses.

  26. Since Laws were made for ev’ry Degree.

  27. Would I might be hang’d!

  28. Thus I stnad like the Turk, with his Dexies around.

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Filed under 1720's, Literature, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Theater

Item of the Day: Castiglione’s The Courtier (1727)

Full Title:

Il Cortegiano, or The Courtier: Written by Conte Baldassar Castiglione. And a New Version of the same into English. Together with Several of his Celebrated Pieces, as well Latin as Italian, both in Prose and Verse. To which is prefix’d, The Life of the Author. By A.P. Castiglione, of the same Family. Printed in London by W. Bowyer, 1727.

[The text appears in Italian and English in facing columns.]

From Book II.

I have often, not without Wonder, reflected, whence an Error could arise; which one would be apt to think natural to old Men, since found in so many; viz. that they almost universally applaud the Times past, and blame the present; censuring those Modes and Practices with which their younger Years were not acquainted; lamenting the Decline of Virtue, the Degeneracy of Age, the Change of all Things from bad to worse. Now it seems a most unreasonable thing, and what we cannot but be surprized at, that an advanced Age, such as from its great Experience is wont in other Matters to pass the truest, the most exact Judgment, should in this so err, as not to perceive, that if the World daily grew worse, if the Parents were generally better than their Children, we should long e’er this have arrived at the highest Pitch of Vice, at a State, a worse than which would be impossible. Yet this Error we find, not only in our own, but also in ancient Times, prevailing over Persons of the Age we speak of: As is evident from many of the ancient Writers, and particularly the Comick, who give us a better idea of humane Life than any other.

The Reason of this wrong Judgment I take to be, that our Years, as they pass, carry away with ’em many of the Comforts of Life, and particularly occasion such a Decrease of the Animal Spirits, as effects a Change in our Constitution, and renders all those Organs weak through which the Soul exerts its Operations. Whence the sweet Flowers of Delight fall at that time of Life from our Hearts, as Leaves fall from the Trees in Autumn, and instead of gay and chearful Thoughts, a Train of dark and melancholy Apprehensions possess us, our Minds discovering a Weakness great as what we find in our Bodies: All that remains of our past Pleasures, is the Remembrance of the dear Time when they were enjoy’d, which seems such to us, as if Heaven, Earth, and universal Nature, had then put on their best Array, and afforded us the Entertainment of a delightful Garden, adorn’d with all the Beauties of the Spring. Hence perhaps it were to be wish’d, that in that cold Season, when the Sun of our Life is in his Decline, we might lose at once the Sense of Pleasure and its Remembrance, and that we knew Themistocles’s Art of Forgetfulness; because the Senses of our Bodies are so easily deceived, as to mislead the Determinations of the Mind.

I cannot therefore but regard old Men as in the same Condition with them, who fixing, as they sail out of a Haven, their Eyes of the Shore, think it to move, and the Vessel they are in, to stand still: When on the contrary, the Shore, like the Time, keeps its settled State, and we in the Bark of Mortality, are each after the other carried with a brisk Gale through that stormy Sea which devours all things, nor find it ever in our Power to regain the Haven; but always toss’d by the Fury of the Winds, have our Vessel dash’d at length against a Rock and split.

That the Minds then of the aged know not a Relish of many Pleasures, is, becasue they are not proper Subjects for them. As it is with one in a Fever, to whose vitiated Palate the most delicate Wines appear insipid and disagreeable: The very same it is with those in the Decline of Life; they feel an Inclination for Pleasure, yet whatever they pursue they find tastless, flat, and quite different from what they had formerly enjoy’d, though the Nature of the Pleasure continue still the same. Disappointed thus, they grieve and lay the Fault on the Times, as if they were grown worse; never perceiving the Change to be in themselves, not the Times. On the other hand too, reflecting on the Pleasures pass’d, they reflect likewise on the Time when they enjoy’d them, and commend it as seeming to carry with it a Taste of what they felt in it when present. The Truth is, we ever entertain an Aversion to all those things which have accompanied our Uneasynesses, as we do an Affection to whatever has attended our Joys.

Hence it is that a Lover often views with Pleasure a Casement when shut, and this, because he has at some time seen his Mistress there; so likewise a Ring, a Letter, a Garden, any Place or Thing that has been a Witness to his Happiness. On the contrary, an Apartment deck’d with all that can make it gay and delightful, shall be the Abhorrence of him who has suffer’d Imprisonment, or any other Uneasiness in it. I my self have known some that could never drink out of any thing which bore a Resemblance to what they had formerly taken Physick in. For as the Casement, Ring, or Letter, recall’d to the one the dear Remembrance of what had so much delighted him, seeming a part of what had given him Pleasure: So the very Place or Vessel are regarded by the other, as bringing with them the Imprisonment or Disease. On a Foundation like this, I believe it is, that the advanced in Age applaud the past Time, and inveigh against the present.

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Filed under 1720's, Culture, Education, Modern Language Translations, Oratory, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: The History of the Conquest of Mexico (1724)

Full Title: The History of the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. Done into English from the Original Spanish of Don Antonio De Solis, Secretary and Historiographer to His Catholick Majesty. By Thomas Townsend. London: Printed for T. Woodward at the Half-Moon, and J. Hooke at the Flower-de-Luce, both against St. Dunstan’s Church, in Fleet-Street; and J. Peele at Locke’s-Head in Pater-Noster-Row, M.DCC.XXIV.


Juan de Grijalva prosecutes his Voyage, and enters

the River of Flags, where he has the first Account

 of the Mexican King Montezuma.

Grijalva and his Companions pursued their Voyage, standing the same Course, still discovering new Lands and Towns, without any memorable Accident, until they came to a River, which they call’d the River of Flags; because on the Shore and neighbouring Coasts, they saw a great Number of Indians, with white Flags hanging at the Tops of their Spears, and who, by their Manner of waving them, together with their Signals, Cries, and different Motions, made a Shew of Peace, and seemed rather to invite Passengers than forbid them. Grijalva order’d Francisco de Montejo to advance with some of his Men in two Boats, to try the Entrance of the River, and discover the Intentions of those Indians. This Captain finding a good Anchoring Place, and little to apprehend from the Behavior of the Poeple, gave Notice to the rest to come up. They all landed, and were received with great Admiration and Marks of Joy by the Indians: From amongst them whom, assembled in great Numbers, three advanced, who, by the Ornaments of their Habits, seemed the principal Men of the Country; and stopping so long as was necessary to observe who was the chief Commander, by the Respect the others paid him, they went directly up to Grijalva, whom they accosted with great Reverence, and who received them with equal Courtesy. Our Interpreters did not understand the Language of this Country, so that the Compliments were made by civil Signs, with some Words of more Sound than Signification.

AFTER this they saw a Banquet, which the Indians had provided of different Sorts of Food, plac’d, or rather flung upon Mats of Palm, under the Shade of the Trees; a rustick and disorderly Plenty, but not the less grateful to the Taste of the hungry Soldiers. After which Refreshment, the three Indians commanded their People to shew some Pieces of Gold, which they had concealed till then; and by their Manner of shewing and holding them, it was understood that they did not design to make a Present of them, but to purchase with them the Merchandize of the Ships, the Fame of which had already reach’d their Ears. Presently a Fair was open’d for Strings of Beads, Combs, Knives, and other Instruments of Iron and Alchimy, which in that Country might be called Jewels of great Price, the Fondness of the Indians for those Trifles giving them a real Value. They were exchanged for Implements, and Trinkets of Gold, not of the greatest Fineness, but in such Abundance, that in the six Days the Spaniards stopp’d there, the Ransomes amounted to fifteen thousand Peso’s.

We don’t know with what Propriety they gave the Name of Ransomes to this Kind of Trucking, nor why they called it Ransomed Gold, which in Truth was deliver’d over to a greater Slavery, and had more Liberty where it was less esteemed: But I shall make use of this Expression, because I find it introduced into our Histories, and before them into the History of the East Indies; it being granted that in the Manner of Speaking, whereby Things are explained, the Reason is not so much to be sought after, as the Custom, which according to the Opinion of Horace, is the true Judge of Language, and either gives or takes away, as it pleases, that Harmony which the Ear finds between Sounds and their Signification.

Juan de Grijalva finding that the Ransomes were at an End, and the Ships in some Danger, by being exposed to the North Wind, took his leave of those People, who remained pleased and thankful. He consulted about pursuing his intended Discovery, having understood by Signs that these three Indian Chiefs were Subjects to a Monarch called Motezuma [sic], whose Empire extended over numerous Countries abounding with Gold, and other Riches; and that they came by his Order to examine, after a peaceable Manner, into the Intentions of our People, whose Neighbourhood, in all Appearance, gave him Disturbance. Some Writers run into larger Accounts, but it doth not seem easy to conceive whence they could have gained their Knowledge, nor was it a small Matter to learn so much as we have related, where People were oblig’d to speak with their Hands, and understand with their Eyes.

 They sailed on, without losing Sight of Land, and passing by two or three Islands of small Note, landed on one they called the Island of Sacrifices, because going in to view a House of Lime and Stone, which overlooked the rest, they found several Idols of horrible Figure, and more horrible Worship paid to them; for near the Steps where they were plac’d, were the Carkasses of six or seven Men, newly sacrifice, cut to Pieces, and their Entrails laid open. This miserable Sight struck our People with Horror, and affected them with different Sentiments, their Hearts being filled with Compassion, at the same Time that they were enraged at the Abomination.

They staid but a little while in this Island, because the Inhabitants seemed to be in a Consternation; so that the Ransomes were not considerable. Upon which they pass’d on to another, which was not far from the Main Land, and so situated, that between that and the Coast there was sufficient Room and convenient Shelter for the Ships. They called it the Island of St. Juan, because they arrived there on the Day of the Baptist, and likewise in Respect to the Name of their General, mixing Devotion with Flattery; because an Indian, who was pointing with his Hand towards the Main Land, giving them to understand how it was called, repeated several Times, with a bad Pronunciation, the Word Culua! Culua! This gave Occasion to the Sir name, by which they distinguished it from St. Juan de Puerto Rico, calling it St. Juan de Ulua: A little Island of more Sand than Soil; and which lay so low, that sometimes it was cover’d by the Sea. But from these humble Beginnings, it became the most frequented and most celebrated Port of New Spain, on that Side which is bound by the North Sea.

HERE  they staid some Days; for the Indians of the neighbouring Parts came with their Pieces of Gold, believing they had the Advantage of the Spaniards in changing them for Glass. And Juan de Grijalva finding that his Instructions limited him to discover and ransome without making a Settlement, (which was expresly [sic] forbidden him,) he consulted about giving an Account to Diego Velasquez of the large Countries he had discover’d; that in case he resolv’d to have him settle there he might send him Orders with a Supply of Forces, and such other Provisions as he stood need of. With this Account he dispatch’d Captain Pedro de Alvarado in one of the four Ships, giving him all the Gold, and whatever else they had acquired until that Time; to the End, that the Shew of that Wealth might give his Embassy the more Weight, and facilitate his Proposal of Settling, to which he was always inclined; notwithstanding Francisco Lopez de Gamara denies it, and blames him on the Account as a pusillanimous Person.


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Filed under 1720's, American Indians, History, Mexico, New Spain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel

Item of the Day: Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees (1723)

Full Title:

The Fable of the Bees: or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits. The second edition, enlarged with many additions. As also an essay on Charity and Charity-Schools and a Search into the Nature of Society. By Bernard Mandeville. Printed in London for Edmund Parker at the Bible and Crown in Lombard Street, 1723.

The Introduction:

One of the greatest Reasons why so few People understand themselves, is, that most Writers are always teaching Men what they should be, and hardly ever trouble their heads with telling them what they really are. As for my part, without any Compliment to the Courteous Reader, or my self, I believe Man (besides Skin, Flesh, Bones, &c. that are obvious to the Eye) to be a Compound of various Passions, that all of them, as they are provoked and come uppermost, govern him by turns, whether he will or no. To shew, that these Qualifications, which we all pretend to be asham’d of, are the great support of a flourishing Society, has been the subject of the foregoing Poem [“The Grumbling Hive”]. But there being some Passages in it seemingly Paradoxical, I have in the Preface promised some explanatory Remarks on it; which, to render more useful, I have thought fit to enquire, how Man no better qualify’d, might yet by his own Imperfections be taught to distinguish between Virtue and Vice: And here I must desire the Reader once and for all to take notice, that when I say Men, I mean neither Jews nor Christians; but meer Man, in the State of Nature and ignorance of the true Deity.

From An Enquiry into the Origin of Moral Virtue:

All untaught Animals are only Sollicitous of pleasing themselves, and naturally follow the bent of their own Inclinations, without considering the good or harm that from their being pleased wiill accrue to others. This is the Reason, that in the wild State of Nature those Creatures are fittest to live peaceably together in great Numbers, that discover the least of Understanding, and have the fewest Appetites to gratify, and consequently no Species of Animals is without the Curb of Government, less capable of agreeing long together in Multitudes than that of Man; yet such are his Qualities, whether good or bad, I shall not determine, that no Creature besides himself can ever be made sociable: But being an extraordinary selfish and headstrong, as well as cunning Animal, however he may be subdued by superior Strength, it is impossible by force alone to make him tractable, and receive the Improvements he is capable of.

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Filed under 1720's, Philosophy, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Gay’s Beggar’s Opera (1728)

For the Friday sing-along:

Our Polly is a sad Slut! nor heeds what we have taught her.
I wonder any Man alive will ever rear a Daughter!
For she must have both Hoods and Gowns, and Hoops to swell her Pride,
With Scarfs and Stays, and Gloves and Lace; and she will have Men beside;
And when she’s drest with Care and Cost, all-tempting, fine and gay,
As Men should serve a Cowcumber, she flings herself away.
Our Polly is a sad Slut, &c.

Full Title:

The Beggar’s Opera. As it is Acted at the Theatre-Royal in Lincolns-Inn-Fields. Written by Mr. Gay. The Second Edition: To which is Added the Ouverture in Score; and the Musick prefix’d to each Song.

Written by John Gay. Second edition. Printed in London for John Watts, at the Printing-Office in Wild-Court, near Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields in 1728.

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Filed under 1720's, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Theater