The London Gazette

The London Gazette
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is a periodical that was first published in 1665. It is one of the official journals of records of England, and provides information pertaining to the English government. In 1721, the London Gazettewas focused primarily on current affairs, such as the results and descriptions of battles, trade and colonial news, foreign news in major cities such as Paris and Madrid, and the appointment of various officials in London. The London Gazette also featured a section of classified ads, which in addition to advertising the auction of several items, primarily informed the public of bankruptcies and criminal trials.

Unlike some other periodicals,the London Gazette did not focus on literature or theatre. Rather, it almost entirely focused on current events, both domestically and abroad. The London Gazette provided Londoners with information on various decrees and laws passed by the King and Parliament in addition to keeping them updated on various domestic affairs. More importantly, however, it gave the citizens of London the chance to be educated on the current affairs of other European countries. The London Gazette likely appealed to those “News-Addicts” described by the Tatler, who seemed to be more concerned more with discussion of foreign affairs and politics than with their own lives.







Britain: 1721-1722

According to the London Gazette January of 1721 was relatively uneventful; the newspaper lists the many sheriffs King George had appointed through the month, and various minor news from around Europe. However, several articles expressed growing concern over ships coming from foreign territories and bringing back the plague. So, on January 25, the gazette reported that in Westminster, a law had been passed to require ships returning from foreign nations to perform quarantines, “for the better preventing the plague being brought into Great Britain,” and to “hinder the spreading of infection.” Clearly, the people of Britain in 1721 were still very much concerned about the spread of the plague, as several articles from this month are focused on the spread of the plague from foreign countries.

In February of 1721, the plague scare continued, as King George issued a proclamation which appeared in the London Gazette which very clearly outlined the requirements for proper plague.jpgquarantines of all ships arriving in “any Port or Place within Great Britain” from anywhere in France. Additionally, there were reports of many articles currently in Britain that were infected with the plague, that were required to be quarantined as well. In addition to scares, about the plague, the London Gazette continued to report on foreign affairs in neighboring European countries, primarily France, Spain, Germany, and Holland. For example, on February 25, the London Gazette reported that “the States of the Provinces of Holland have separated without coming to any resolution.”

According to the Gazette, March passed fairly uneventfully, with only minor news from Spain and France. The paper namely reported the return and arrival of various trade and warships into various ports, and the arrest of inconsequential persons. Additionally, there were accounts of various important figures arriving in England, and descriptions of their reception. Domestically, there were warnings against those trying to sell wine without a license. All in all, a quiet and peaceful month for Britain, according to the London Gazette.

The April editions of the London Gazette were primarily interested in the foreign affairs of Sweden. Several of the articles came from Stockholm, where they chronicled the movement of the Swedish king throughout the country. While the descriptions of what he did were fairly innocuous, readers nonetheless were able to get a small glimpse into the affairs of Sweden. Additionally, minor news arrived from Paris, Berlin, the Hague, and Amsterdam. While much of the news from this month was fairly trivial, it represented the affairs of a wide range of European countries. This probably shows that the Gazette’s reader base had vested interest in the news of various European nations.

May of 1721 had slightly more interesting news; on the 7th of May, an escaped smuggler was apprehended and arrested. Jacob Walter, and his accomplice Thomas Brigg, were staying at an inn when officers arrived. They were assaulted by Walter, Brigg, and their men, but managed to capture the two smugglers. In addition, bounties were put out for their accomplices. Also occurring in May was the appointment of the brother and nephews of the pope into the Italian government.

Swiss affairs were the main subject of the London Gazette in June of 1721, as the Grand Council at Zurich received a letter urging them to cut off trade with France, in order to prevent further spread of the plague. While not directly pertinent to the affairs of England, this news nonetheless revealed to the British people the urgency and seriousness of the Plague epidemic occurring at the time.

The Theatre Season of 1721-1722
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According to The London Stage, there were four main theatre companies dominating the London performance scene in the year 1721: Drury Lane, Lincoln Inn Fields, King’s Theatre, and Haymarket. Drury Lane and Lincoln Inn Fields were still the primary two sources for English plays (as they had been for many years), while the King’s Theatre often showed Italian opera. However, 1721 was a special year for English theatre thanks to the introduction of a company of French comedians who brought many different French tragedies to England, and who performed at the Haymarket. However, they were short-lived, as they only acted twice daily from December to April.
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One play that opened in 1721 was George Frederic Handel’s Floridante, which opened on December 9th. It is an operaseria, or melodramatic opera, and was largely a success with audiences, running for several seasons at the King’s Theatre. The play’s action revolves around the Persian general and king Oronte, who has taken the throne from Nino. He raises Nino’s daughter, Elmira, as his own and promises her hand in marriage to one of his esteemed generals, Floridante. His other daughter, Rossane, is due to marry Timante, prince of Tyre. However, the main dramatic tension of the operais a result of war between Tyre and Persia; while Rossane is forbidden from marrying the Tyrean prince, Floridante is exiled, leaving both pairs of lovers separated. Oronte is a tyrant, and keeps the two pairs of lovers separate despite crafty attempts of disguise and trickery by both Floridante and Timante. Later, however, Rossane and Timante organize a coup and overthrow the tyrant Oronte. He is pardoned for his crimes, while Elmira succeeds to the throne. Timante and Rossane rule Tyre, and the Opera ends happily.





Conclusion:

Because of its nature as a government periodical, the London Gazette doesn’t give a great deal of insight into the daily lives of the British population. However, it does keep a clear record of various domestic and international political affairs. In fact, it is interesting that it was even offered to the public (by way of subscription) at all, because it mainly concerns government affairs. However, this shows clearly the interest of the British population in government affairs, especially internationally. This relates to the readings in The Tatler, which spoke of British citizens who were overly involved in international affairs, and paid little attention to their own lives domestically. “News-Addicts,” as they were referred to, are exactly the type of people who would be interested in a subscription to the London Gazette. While it might be a bit of a stretch, the interest of English citizens in foreign affairs may partially explain why an opera such as Floridante was popular. In addition to the obvious appeal of a dramatic opera, Floridante takes place in a foreign country to England. There is some deal of exoticism, which would presumably excite the English viewers of the opera, especially those that were concerned with foreign affairs. While the Opera is (obviously) fictional, its popularity does partially align with the idea that many British citizens were overly interested in foreign news. Overall, the combination of these sources reflect the idea that there was an oversaturation of media and news in England in this time period – but was this a positive or a negative?







Works Cited


"News." London Gazette 1 Jan. 1721. 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection: UK Newspapers. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.

"Floridante." Handel and Hendrix. Handel and Hendrix. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.

The London Stage, 1660-1800: a Calendar of Plays, Entertainments & Afterpieces, Together With Casts, Box-receipts And Contemporary Comment. [1st ed.] Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960196811965.