Dearest Elizabeth,

How has everything been? I can hardly believe how much time has passed since we last exchanged letters. We use to write one another on a monthly basis, however it appears that we have lost contact over this past year. Isn’t it astonishing that it is already 1720? Where has the time gone? It feels like just yesterday we were playing in your parents yard in the countryside. While life in London has been exciting, I often reminisce of old times together while wishing you were here by my side. Before I become teary-eyed, I think it’s best that I turn my attention to a more cheerful subject.

So tell me, what did you think of this year’s theater season? I was very impressed by the variety of plays offered quite regularly throughout these months. I’m sure that you saw The Way of the World, The Country Wife, or The Rover at least once as these works were run extensively throughout the theater season. How do you feel about the reworkings of British classics such as Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth? I for one prefer these classics to newer, and often less promising selections. It seems that everyone is in agreement about this as I am yet to confront someone who prefers the new to the old.

Have you noticed that today’s playwrights seem to lack the sophistication and style characteristic of the days of Shakespeare and the Restoration? Take John Dennis, creator of The Invader of His Country, or The Fatal Resentment, for example. As a Shakespeare enthusiast, I could barely contain myself upon learning of Dennis’ recreation of Coriolanus in 1719. I admit, for a brief period of time I was nervous that this play might never debut, as talk of its presence in theaters did not surface until this year. As if this delay wasn’t a torturous wait in itself, opening day was pushed back from Tuesday, November 8th to Wednesday, November 9th. Apparently, a benefit for a young author at Lincoln's Inn Fields served as the cause for this change of date. Rumor has it that Dennis asked the Duke of Newcastle to interfere with the management of the theater in the same arbitrary manner in which his predecessors in office had done. With word of the King’s upcoming arrival scheduled for the 11th, Dennis was against the first third night of his performance running simultaneous to this distracting visit. Needless to say, this play was one of the greatest disappointments of the season. After a mere two days of performances, this work was immediately pulled from Drury Lane’s Theater-Royal. Apparently, it failed to turn a minimum profit of £100, thus labeling this play an instant failure.
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John Dennis (Critic/playwright).

Regardless, I did appreciate Dennis’ attempt to include an element of war. I noticed that he omits the scene between Coriolanus and the Citizens, as well as that between Coriolanus and the Ladies in Act 1. Instead, he begins with Coriolanus at the head of the Roman army, giving rise to the military scenes that later ensue. Given our state of involvement in the war with Spain, I assume that this alteration was intended to capture the audience’s attention from early on by making this work more relevant to today’s political climate. Then again, sometimes classics are best left in their original form. What do you think Elizabeth?

Another main difference between Coriolanus and The Invader of His Country, or The Fatal Resentment, is most obvious in the plays’ endings. Shakespeare’s Coriolanus concludes when the eponymous character betrays Aufidius. Then, he returns to Rome where he is murdered by Aufidius and his men. Dennis' version takes a different approach as Coriolanus ultimately kills Aufidius and several of his men. Surprisingly, Aufidius is then stabbed by the last of Coriolanus’ men who has also just been stabbed. If you ask me, this ending completely changes the moral worth behind Coriolanus’ character. Instead of presenting him as the play’s protagonist, Dennis instead finds a way to rob Coriolanus of his hero status by making him look like a villain. In my opinion, this in itself is a slap in the face to Shakespeare and one of his many brilliant masterpieces.

While I have typically been drawn to the classics, I am curious if you have seen any of the five new plays that debuted this theater season. Charles Molloy’s The Half Pay Officers ran seven times beginning on Monday, January 11. Whig and Tory, by Benjamin Griffin, also ran seven times, starting Tuesday, January 26, with showings one and two months later. While the majority of these works were shown at the Lincoln's Inn Fields, the revival of Whig and Tory and The Siege of Damascus were both performed at Drury Lane. The Siege of Damascus, by John Hughes, seems to have been among the most popular of these originals as it ran for three days starting Wednesday, February 17, and then again in April due to popular demand. The Refusal, by Colley Cibber, ran six times starting Thursday, February 14. Unfortunately for Cibber, this work was described as laughable. In fact, his first two shows were even met by the audience’s booing. How embarrassing!

December marked an exciting month. I wonder if people in the country were as elated as I was upon hearing news of the New Theater’s construction in the Haymarket. Previously known as the King’s Head Inn, the New Theater, or the Little Theater, has been serving the needs of the French comedians renting it out. Unlike Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Drury Lane, which host the majority of the classic English dramas performed, the New Theater operates without a patent or license. I can’t imagine this lasting for long, however, as you know how the main theaters like to keep their competition limited to one another.

My husband Marcus and I have been following The London Journal closely over the past few months. I’m sure this comes as little surprise seeing how you love to joke about London city goers’ reliance on the media. I admit, this year has been pretty hectic, but I suppose chaos is what prompts us to keep reading this magazine with the delivery of each new edition.
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The London Journal, June 18-June 25.

While you enjoy the solace of the countryside, I really urge you to pay closer attention to local and world affairs, as there is more to life than the arts, Elizabeth. This magazine makes an effortless task of keeping up with current events. While the foreign affairs section offers news from the colonies, as well as information relating to diplomacy and foreign relations including trade, the main portion discusses London society. This year a lot of emphasis has been placed on society’s preoccupation with new money, greed, and the rise/fall of the South-Sea Company.

Speaking of which, did your father end up investing as Marcus once suggested? I ask because Marcus was deeply troubled by local gossip that implied hidden corruption on part of the company and its shareholders. When share price’s spiked to £1050 after the passing of the Bubble Act, it seemed that everyone looked on at shareholders with skepticism and envy. Much of London viewed the new mercantile class as greedy upon its inheritance of new money. In the June 18th-25th publication, the author even opened with a letter from a Mr. Humphrey Query insisting that the mercantile class could never seem to acquire enough wealth to be fully satisfied. He also suggested that ones ability to profit from company stock and trade will lead to a generation of men yearning for more money than is fiscally responsible to possess. I had hoped that the author’s defense against this letter would show Marcus that not all people think of us this way, however reading about the hunger sweeping through France in the foreign affairs section made us both feel uneasy. I guess it was hard for our family to feel good about our newly acquired fortune when inflation had been causing our French neighbors to go hungry. The author did, however make a good point as he expressed that “No man can have too much to do good with.” He also pointed out that the desire to increase ones wealth is wise since a family can never be too prepared for the misfortunes that may lie ahead. For a while I would remind Marcus of this on a daily basis, however it seemed that many people in London were distrustful of the trading companies he supported. As a result, Marcus also started to become suspicious. While the author was right about the unpredictability of the future, having a lot of money does not necessarily guarantee a lifetime of financial security, regardless of how much you think you may have. By August the stock value had dropped to £800. As quickly as we had attained our wealth, we again lost it. No money would have been “enough” to help us when all of our money was tied up in a company on the verge of its collapse. Please provide me with an update on your financial situation, as I fear that your family may also be experiencing the heartache of this large financial loss.

Last time we spoke you had mentioned your daughter’s interest in moving to London. While I enjoy the city, I have attached to this letter the July 30th-August 6th issue of The London Journal. This issue is about the West Country squire’s travels to London from Devonshire, as he sarcastically refers to London as the “greatest city on Earth.” I think this piece will offer your daughter some insight into the less glamorous aspects of city life. The author reveals how everything is overpriced and how the people are unfriendly in comparison to the countryside. Both you and I can attest to the accuracy of his claim. If she expects men here to tip their hats hello as those in the country, she is in for a rude awakening.

Another topic the author discusses is the “filthy and lewd women” as well as the ignorant men who can be spotted regularly on Drury Lane. It seems that with each passing month, London society is becoming even more vulgar and scandalous as evident by the nightlife. It is not uncommon to hear of men cursing and playing dice while consuming too much alcohol at the local pubs. Since you had mentioned that you do not want your Bethany to leave home as she will run the risk of becoming corrupt, it is my hope that this article may be enough to convince her otherwise. She does not have to read past the first attached pages, however, as the rest of this issue will bore her with more talk of the South-Sea.

While I have been talking a lot about local concerns, I would love to know how you feel about our current situation with Spain. I read a starting letter published by The London Journal in their May 28th issue. A British prisoner being held captive in Havana wrote a letter published in the magazine warning of the potential for a Spanish attack on the Carolin's. Apparently, the Spaniards have been training the Native American’s in what my husband likes to call, “the art of modern resistance.” He says that the Spanish can’t stand to see our presence in the America’s, but I told him that it’s just too bad for them! I’ve noticed that a lot of focus this year has been placed on British/Spanish relations as well as our involvement in the colonies. Before purchasing this magazine, I can honestly admit that I was unaware of so much of the world’s occurrences. I’m telling you, Elizabeth, it feels good to be in tune to the world’s events! I suggest that you buy The London Journal for your home as well.

Another article I think you may find informative was published in the October 15th-October 22nd issue of The London Journal. This foreign affairs section characterizes the month of October as a time to lay low and avoid action. The author advises that Britain must remain focused on the motion of the Spaniards as they embark on a secret mission. While this mission is described as a mystery, the author expresses his confidence in British intelligence. He says that we will make a full discovery of this matter very soon as the truth cannot stay hidden forever. I for one find it comforting to be a part of a nation that is assertive in its capabilities. Like the author, I too have faith in my flag.

On a positive note, it seems that the Swedes and the Muscovites have improved their previously stained relations. Inside sources inform the author that they “seem to be going on very amicably together.” It is reassuring to hear that the reconciliation between these two contending powers seems to be improving every day.

While the foreign affairs section does a great job in its discussion of foreign relations, this section also overlaps with material discussed in the main paper as such relates to trade and the economy. This issue discusses the arrival of 1300 ounces of foreign gold to the Cuflon House. Can you imagine what it would be like to have 1300 ounces of gold before your eyes? Unfortunately for us, this gold is neither yours nor mine, however its exportation to Holland should contribute to the improvement of our economy. Also, the directors of the East-India Company have given notice that their sale of goods will begin with coffee and drugs.

Have you heard about Madrid’s plan to have all ships of foreign nations quarantined before coming into any Spanish ports? I fear that the author may be right in his assumption that that this will put a stop, in great measure, to our trade with Spain for some time.

Please write me soon as there is much more to be discussed. I hope that my letter brings you enlightenment, as I know that life in the country can at times leave you feeling isolated from the rest of the world.

Sending you all of my love,

Works Cited

Dennis, John. The Invader of His Country: or, the Fatal Resentment. A tragedy. As it is acted at
The Theatre-Royal in Drury Lane. By His Majesty's Servants. By Mr. Dennis. London, 1720. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. Web.

School Boy. A critick no wit: or, remarks on Mr. Dennis's late play, called The Invader of His
Country. In a letter from a School-Boy, to the author. London, 1720. ECCO. Gale.

Scouten, Arthur H., and Emmett L. Avery. The London Stage. Vol. 2. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois Univ. Pr., 1968. Print.

“The London Journal, 1720." The London Journal 1720, May-December ed.: n. pag.
17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web.