April 4, 1718
Dear Sister,
It was so nice to receive your Letter last Week, and I am sorry I haven’t been able to respond sooner. I’m glad to hear that you are doing well settling in to the Country. Mr. R----- is of such fine merit, I could not have hoped for a better Match for my dear Sister.

London has hardly changed since you’ve left. My only News is that while in the Coffeehouse Tuesday last, a Gentleman introduced to me a wonderful Publication, the Free-Thinker, which I must say, I have been immediately drawn to. It is fairly recent in its Beginning, the first Issue being only from the 24th last. I remember when together we purchased the first Copy of The Criticks, and saw so much to praise in that Publication! But it really has started to become forceful in its Propaganda for the Whig party, and although you might ask what is so wrong with that, I can tell you with most certainty that it will not be able to last long in the Shadow of a Publication that is subtler in its support for the Party. The Gentleman who passed on to me a Copy of The Free-Thinker insisted that it is going to surpass The Criticks in popularity. Already it circulates among the same Men and Women who read the Tatler and the Spectator! Only four Issues as of yet, but already The Free-Thinker seems to be of better Opinion that The Criticks, and I foresee that I might have to change over my Loyalties, for both are published on Mondays. Besides, The Free-Thinker has a new Issue thrice weekly, which is far preferable to the once weekly Criticks. I suggest that you find a Copy of the Free-Thinker, and see for yourself if it is worth the Talk it receives! Mr. Thinker really has such wonderful Opinions, and he is always mentioning the fairer Sex as well, which is perhaps another Reason that it is likely to outperform The Criticks in Popularity. For Mr. Thinker is of the Opinion that Women as well as Men are able to see Reason, and I don’t see why it should be otherwise. But perhaps the most appealing aspect of The Free-Thinker is its Disengagement from party Prejudices. Though, I still wouldn’t expect to see it in the Hands of a Tory. But still, Mr. Thinker gives no Occasion for Lovers of Truth to expect an impartiality of Conduct.

Lovingly, Your Brother, A----

April 14, 1718
Dear sister,
Remember my previous Letter, where I mentioned the Gentleman who introduced me to The Free-Thinker? Recall how I predicted a Competition between that such Publication and The Criticks? Well it seems this Prediction may have come true, for the Essay in The Criticks today announced that The Criticks should now be publishing their weekly Essays on Wednesdays rather than Mondays, which I can only imagine is so as not to compete with Mr. Free-Thinker, who has been only gaining ever more loyal Readers here in London. Hardly a day goes by that I do not overhear a Conversation in the Coffeehouses about an Essay by Mr. Thinker, for he really does talk such interesting Opinions. He doesn’t leave out a single Topick, for he is always ready to expound on Politick, Morality, and Religion. Just Today for example, he discussed on Topicks of Love and Matrimony, just in time for Easter Season, offering Anecdotes of insight to help readers determine with their own Minds a proper Morality. The only Topick that has as yet been left out is current Events in Literature, and the current Season in Theatre. I’ve heard others accuse Mr. Thinker of Whig Sympathies, but those men are sensitive Tories, and are always accusing Everyone of Propaganda.

As far as I am concerned, The Criticks’ switch to Wednesday Publication spells out the End of their short Run. I from henceforth will read only The Free-Thinker, for I really don’t think it necessary to clog my free-thinking Mind with the forced Propaganda of a less able Essayist.

Lovingly, Your Brother, A------

May 9, 1718
Dear sister,
I’m sorry I haven’t been able to write for a few Weeks. But just this Morning an Issue of The Free-Thinker rung well with me so much that I just knew I had to share with you! I really do think you would love Mr. Thinker, he’s exactly Everything we used to talk about, and more! Why, he even includes the Ladies in amongst his Free-thinkers. Last week’s Issue for instance, included two Letters written by Women! And Mr. Free-thinker responded to them with such Grace. The first was an account about a Woman who was wronged by a Man of higher Rank, and when inquiring as to what should have been done in the Situation, Mr. Free-thinker responded with the Opinion that men should not take Advantage of the weaker Sex. A true inspiration indeed! And after recounting a second Letter, this by Virgins who had taken Offense at an earlier Issue because Mr. Free-Thinker had called Women such as them Enemies of Free-thinking, Mr. Thinker took the Opportunity to say that he is not Above correcting his own past Mistakes. A noble Response I’d say, and definitely not an Action that other Men would have even thought to do. In fact, he goes so far as to say that all Members of your fair Sex ought to take a Lesson from these Virgins for having had Wit with their Anger. Mr. Free-thinker takes every Opportunity that he can to give out Lessons to the fair Sex; an Act which I find helps them feel included. For what Good would it be if Women as well as Men could not hope to have sound, independent Minds? You, my dear Sister, I think set a fine Example as well, for if Mr. Thinker could have heard your Comment when Mr. G----- was dining with us last Summer, he would know as well as I that Women are capable of such glorious Wit!

But as I was saying when I began this Letter, today’s Issue of The Free-Thinker was so honest that I felt I just had to share with you! Remember those long ago Days when we used to sit under the Trees in the Garden and discuss Philosophy? Nothing was left out of our Conversations, though I can’t help but feel as though we were missing Something hugely important. You should read Mr. Free-Thinker! He thinks that Philosophy is like fine Jewels, that only those of Rank can posses, but that Common Sense, on the other hand, is a true Currency, like Silver and Coin. It is Philosophy that we used to speak of, not Common Sense (for how could we? We were each so young, and knew nothing of Common Sense). Now, Mr. Free-thinker has answered this long-lost Question. We wondered why, though understanding the Philosophers and their Words, that the People of Britain were still rotten to the Core. Well now, dear Sister, I can assure you that it is because these modern Britons have no Common Sense! For with Common Sense and Reason, it is impossible not to remain truthful in Religion, Morality, and the Principles of Government.

Lovingly, Your Brother, A-------

May 30, 1718
Dear sister,
I do miss you dearly. How you must be longing for the City, it has been Months now since you have been here last. I was pleased to receive your Letter, although I am sorry to say I can’t do much to recount this year’s Theater Season, for I myself have been so busy that I have been unable to attend any Plays in the past several Weeks. A Gentleman that I have been conversing with at the Coffeehouses regularly insists that we attend Colley Cibber’s, The Non-juror, for he tells me that it is all the rage ever since its premiere last Month. It is still showing at both Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Theatre!

But there have been so many other Plays as well. Just this Week, for instance, the Players at both Drury Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Theatre presented The Recruiting Officer. I heard such wonderful Reviews! The False Count also received well, I hear. The Fatal Marriage and The London Cuckholds I haven’t heard as raving Reviews, although a Pamphlet suggests that The London Cuckholds is a Masterpiece of this Time. The Spanish Fryar has seen several Nights at Drury Lane as well, I expect due to Mister Wilks’ Portrayal of Pedro, which has been talked about with great Fervor. I did get a chance to go to a Concert for the Benefit of Mrs. Robinson, who never yet performed in Publick. In fact, there have been quite a high Number of Concerts this Season; I really must attend more. Tonight there is another concert at Weys’. It makes me sad that you are not here to enjoy the Music. Perhaps when you are in London next, we will attend The Provok’d Husband, although I hope you don’t find too much of a similarity between Lady Townly’s plight and yours.

Lovingly, Your Brother, A--------


Aug 19, 1718
Dear sister,
Last evening I had the Chance to see The Non-juror as it was performed at The Royal Theatre in Drury Lane. A little late in Coming, I know, but Chance had it that I would not be able to attend a Show until now. I’m certainly aware of all the Pamphlets both for and against it, and I’ve read so much on it that I feel as though I’ve seen the whole Thing already! I’m sure even you have gotten some word of the Play in the Country, for it is nearly impossible to have it be otherwise. But in case you’ve been too caught up with Mr. R------, I shall recount some of its Plot for you.

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The Play centers around Sir John, who has interests in Maria, but Dr. Wolf, who also has designs on Maria hoodwinks the knight, and attempts to disabuse his Mind, but utterly fails until the End of the Play. Wolf, who also makes Proposals to Lady Woodvil, is a clergyman and papist spy. A commentary indeed! It is hard not to see why this Play has been so much in the News and in all the Talk at Coffeehouses, even now, around 4 Months after its initial Debut. It is clearly a direct Attack on the Jacobites; Cibber begins his attack on the Nonjurors who refuse to take oath at the very Dedication to the King, where he states his designs “to attack those lurking enemies of the Constitution f
rom our Stage.”

But the truly comical Moments in the Play center around Maria (performed of course by Mrs. Oldfield), who is adored both by Heartly and the somewhat sentimental Charles. These Fellows and their Happenings are quite comical! The whole audience was laughing throughout, though I’m sure most of them were probably returning for return Visits. By the End of the Night I was quite sure of Mister Cibber’s abilities as a playwright (he’s hardly a dunce at all!) for who else could have moved an Audience so much? Even the Few who are offended of it are far outnumbered by those who agree with his Message, whether you are to believe it as Propaganda or not.

Lovingly, Your Brother, A------

Aug 29, 1718
Dear Sister,
I am writing to you Today to tell you of an Occurrence that is set to happen Tonight. I wish I had written to you sooner so that you would know about it in time for Tonight, but I do think that this Event is of big enough Significance that you will have heard about it by other Means.

A Lunar eclipse will occur Tonight for over one Hour of Time, and the Moon will be cast into the direct Shadow of the Earth. It is expected to go completely Dark at such a Time. How exciting! I am still reading The Free-Thinker, of course, and Mr. Thinker himself seems to be of the Opinion that such an Event will scare the fragile States of Ladies, as well as animals in the wild, although I think you probably know more about this natural Phenomenon than Most of your fair Sex.

However, I am very much impressed with Mr. Free-thinker, for rather than merely stating the Facts of this natural Occurrence like so many other Publications, Mr. Freethinker uses this as an Opportunity to ensure the British People of Britain’s continued successes. As he says, Politick must go on! Men of Learning are not fearful of such natural Occurrences (unlike previous National Rulers who may have dissolved their States at the Occurrence of a Flood or the Apparition of a Whale, all out of superstitious and fanatic Fear). The nation of Great Britain will carry on under the mighty Leadership of William and Mary. For there was never a Nation so full of Free-thinkers, so willing to use Reason rather than Superstition at times such as this.

Lovingly, Your Brother, A-------

















References:
Cibber, Colley, Timothy J. Viator, and William J. Burling. The Plays of Colley Cibber. Madison [N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001. Print.

The Free-Thinker: Or, Essays of Wit and Humour. Volume 1. March-August 1718. Print.

Highfill, Philip H, Kalman A. Burnim, and Edward A. Langhans. The London Stage: A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800: Volume 2. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973. 461-505.

Image:

Scene from Bickerstaffe’s Play ‘The Hypocrite’, Adapted from Colly Cibber’s ‘Non Juror’.” http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/smirke-scene-from-bickerstaffes-play-the-hypocrite-adapted-from-colly-cibbers-non-juror-n00765