The London Stage (1722)

Within the year 1722, the London Stage held many different performances. There were four main companies that put on plays: Drury Lane, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the King’s Theatre, and Haymarket. Haymarket was renamed and was called the Duke of Montagu’s Company. They were called this because the second Duke of Montagu became their patron. During this year, newspapers, such as the Daily Courant and the Daily Post were used to advertise plays and performances. Within these newspapers, there was a great variety of critiques of the plays performed that year.

One of these critiques was the focus of a major scandal. On January 4th, 1722, many people attended the play, The Rival Fools. This was written by playwright and actor, Colley Cibber. On this night, the theatre-goers did not like the play, so they started to hiss at Mr. Cibber. As a result, Mr. Cibber tried to calm them down; however, his efforts were wasted, since they continued to hiss at him. The next night, people attended the play again. However, this time, the theatre-goers not only hissed at Mr. Cibber and the other actors, but threw oranges at them as well.

It seemed like William Shakespeare was very popular this year. Many of his productions were performed including Coriolanus, Hamlet, King Lear, The Tempest, King Henry the Fourth Part 1, Othello, Julius Caesar, Titus Andronicus, King Henry the Eighth, and Macbeth. Although Shakespeare was the most popular playwright of the year, William Congreve’s The Way of the World was also performed. Another famous play was Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. It seemed like a lot of the plays either dealt with race or gender within society. Many of these plays questioned what kinds of roles women and people of different races should have within society. This was especially true in March. In March, they had something called Passion Week, which took place the third week of March. This week was dedicated to a number of plays that dealt with a romantic theme. Often, these plays suggested the idea that women should have more freedoms within society. The plays questioned stereotypical gender roles of females and whether or not they should have more power over their life. This questioned the idea of a patriarchal society. When the London Stage was not being used to put on plays, it was used to house musical performances. It is interesting to note that while the theatre broadcast a variety of different plays within the spring, fall, and winter, the performing center did not put on many plays during the summer.

Eliza Haywood, The British Recluse (1722)

In 1722, Eliza Haywood, the author of Love in Excess, wrote a novel called The British Recluse. The novel occurs in three parts.

Within the novel, we are introduced to one of the main characters, Belinda. Belinda is a wealthy, young lady who comes from Warwickshire. She is told by an acquaintance to come to London. While in London, she moves into a nice house. We are told of her landlady. At each meal, the landlady packs up an extra meal and sends it to the Recluse. The Recluse is a mysterious woman who Belinda desires to meet. She inquires about the Recluse and all she is told by her landlady is that the mysterious woman is a wonderful and beautiful woman. A year passes, and then one night, Belinda hears a knock on the door. She answers the door to discover a strange woman. It turns out that the strange woman is the Recluse. Belinda describes the woman as a lady who is as old as herself. She describes the woman as having a fair and beautiful round face. She describes to us that she believes the Recluse to be an intelligent woman, since she possesses a great number of books. Belinda cannot comprehend the reason why the woman is so secretive about her life and does not know why she went into retirement at such an early age. Belinda is curious, so she decides to meet with the Recluse and start a conversation with her. The Recluse and Belinda quickly become friends, and Belinda deducts that the Recluse has had a falling out in a relationship. She believes that a man has scorned the Recluse, and this is why she chooses to go into retirement. It just so happens that Belinda is right, and the Recluse begins to tell Belinda her life story.

The second part of the story is entitled The Story of Cleomira. We soon come to find out that the Recluse’s name is Cleomira. She begins to tell us about her childhood. She notes that she does not name her parents because she is ashamed of herself. She does not want anyone to find out that her parents birthed such a “hideous” creature. She tells the reader that her father came from a wealthy family of nobility and that her mother’s ancestors had noble titles. She was an only child, and at the age of thirteen, her father died. Cleomira’s mother was stricken by the event and could not possess feelings for any other man. As a result, in an attempt to forget about her deceased husband, Cleomira’s mother moves the both of them to a house that is located six miles away. Cleomira’s mother wants her to attend masquerades and balls, so that Cleomira can become a lady and court other men. However, Cleomira is disgusted at the mere thought of this and rebels. It is in this house that Cleomira meets her lover, Lysander. Lysander is an attractive young man who comes by Cleomira’s house. The two admire each other from afar, until one day, he decides to drop a letter off to Cleomira. The letter states how beautiful Cleomira is. Cleomira suddenly becomes infatuated with Lysander and the two of them write love notes back and forth to one another. Most of the love letters describe how each person believes the other to be perfect. Cleomira describes Lysander as a young man who has great wit and charm. Unfortunately, Cleomira’s mother finds the letter and disagrees with Cleomira wanting to date. Cleomira’s mother requests that Cleomira should have servants watch over her. This results in Mr. Marvir and Mrs. Marvir moving in. Their sole purpose is to teach Cleomira proper etiquette and the rules of being a lady. Cleomira hates the idea and she especially despises Mr. Marvir. Cleomira and Lysander now send their messages in secret. One night, Lysander sneaks into the house and kisses Cleomira. Lysander continues to sneak into the house night after night. Cleomira’s and Lysander’s relationship becomes more serious, and they start to become intimate with each other. One day Cleomira notices a love letter that is written by Lysander; however, the note is not addressed to her. Cleomira becomes concerned and thinks that Lysander is cheating on her. He replies that he is not; however, this is not the case. Cleomira discovers that Lysander is courting another woman by the name of Melissa. In hopes that Lysander will fall back in love with Cleomira, Cleomira goes to her nurse and seeks out a sleeping potion. Cleomira uses the potion to fake her own death. Cleomira then becomes friends with a woman named Semanthe. Cleomira’s plan to get Lysander’s attention has failed. She then writes notes to Lysander expressing her hatred towards him. Part two ends with Cleomira drawing a will and handing over her entitlements to her nurse. Cleomira then chooses to live a life of retirement.

Part three begins with the story of Belinda. We are told that Belinda has a mother, a father, a brother, and a sister. Belinda grows up as a young woman in the middle-class. Unfortunately, both of Belinda’s parents die within a year of each other. However, right before her father dies, Belinda’s father arranges a marriage between Belinda and a wealthy, young suitor, Worthly. Just as his name describes, the man owns a large sum of money and wishes to take Belinda’s hand in marriage. Just as we are told of Worthly, a new man is introduced into the text. His name is Sir Thomas Courtal. Courtal begins to court Belinda in a manner similar to how Lysander courted Cleomira. The two of them also exchange love letters. Courtal is jealous that Worthly wants to take Belinda’s hand in marriage, so Courtal finds Worthly, stabs him, and kills him. With Worthly’s last dying breath, he confesses his love towards Belinda. Courtal then runs away in fear of getting caught. At the end of the novel, it turns out that Courtal was actually Lysander. Lysander merely used a pseudonym to disguise his identity. Lysander and Courtal are one and the same. It turns out that Cleomira and Belinda were duped by the same man. The novel ends with Cleomira and Belinda laughing over the whole incident. Although they have been deceived by a man, they are now wiser women and have grown to be best friends.

The British Recluse is a novel about the power women should have in society. Haywood opposes the stereotypical gender roles. She starts off to say that the ability to listen to others can be dangerous because they might deceive us. She especially thinks that men will deceive women if given the chance. Similar to her other text, the novel is all about a woman freely expressing herself. Both Cleomira want the ability to choose whom they fall in love with. They do not want their mother or father choosing for them. Both of the characters also do not care about financial stability. They would rather fall in love with someone whom they truly love, rather than simply marrying a man for his money. Haywood wants to challenge the idea of what a woman should act like in society. Cleomira rebels against her mother’s wishes and does not want to court men by going to formal balls or masquerades. Instead, Cleomira chooses to write love letters to the person she loves. This allows Cleomira to express her individuality and freedom. She can express to a man her true feelings and desires. She courts a man, rather than a man courting her. Haywood also uses the idea of Belinda and Cleomira to express the idea that a woman can defy a man if she so chooses. Cleomira expresses her hatred towards Lysander when he cheats on Cleomira. Normally, this would be perfectly acceptable for a man to have several mistresses. However, Haywood does not agree with this idea. She believes that a man should be loyal to the woman he says he loves. Perhaps Haywood is suggesting a critique on society; she could be suggesting that within society, there is a double-standard for men and women. It is acceptable within society for a man to treat a woman as his property. However, Haywood would not agree with this idea. Haywood believes that a woman is equal to a man and should be given the same rights as a man. She should be able to marry the man she loves. She should be able to court him without others getting in her way. She should be able to openly express her feelings towards a man. Haywood may also be suggesting that men are evil. Although this statement is a bit strong, the text proves the statement to be true. Courtal/Lysander not only lies to both of the women, but he also stabs and kills Worthly. Perhaps Haywood is commenting on the idea that some men can be dogs; they are disrespectful and do not treat women properly.

The London Journal (1722)

The first article of the year deals with the issue of slavery. The newspaper talks about how horrible enslavement is. For example, the newspaper talks about how Turkey was not allowed to have a printer. The newspaper focuses on the issues of trading. Only certain countries were allowed to trade with other specific countries. By showing this, we can suggest that this year was a time of economic slavery. Certain countries did not believe in the idea of capitalism and had to report back to the government. It seems that there is a lot of prejudice going on at this time in history. The Lords in Ireland are discriminating against their own people. They are creating laws that say that anyone who is a Catholic can and will be executed.

Conclusions

The year 1722 is a very interesting year in history. Over the course of the year, we have seen many authors that we recognize, such as Congreve, Haywood, and Cibber. It is interesting to note that Cibber was ridiculed for his play. After all, Alexander Pope considers him a dunce and writes the Dunciad as a result of disapproving of Cibber’s various plays. It seems that whether it be through a medium of a play, a newspaper, or a novel, each text talks about the idea of a minority rising up. Each minority faces some type of slavery, whether that be economic slavery, religious slavery, physically being enslaved, or being enslaved because you are of a certain gender. The multiple texts try to come up with solutions to combat slavery, whether that be writing love letters, ignoring racial prejudice, or wanting to gain financial stability.




Works Cited

Schneider, Ben. "1722." The London Stage. 1979.

Haywood, Eliza. The British Recluse: or, the Secret History of Cleomira, Suppos'd Dead.. 2nd. London : Eighteenth Century Collections Online, 1722. 1-140. Print.

"Saturday, March 31st, 1722." The London Journal. 31.140 (1722): 1-6. Web. 7 Dec.

2012.