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  1. Many of the works of art that represent city life in the eighteenth century seem internally divided between two points of view, one strongly positive, one strongly negative. In the two passages from Smollett's Humphry Clinker, for instance, Matthew Bramble describes Vauxhall as a noisy, ugly, unhealthy Bedlam, and Lydia Melford describes it as a beautiful place with something for everyone to enjoy. Other works share that conflicted response.
    1. What signs of such a conflicted response do you find in poems such as Swift's Description of the Morning and Pope's Rape of the Lock (NAEL 8, 1.2513), and images such as Rowlandson's Vauxhall Gardens and Hogarth's Enraged Musician? What might account for these divided points of view? Are citizens of London proud of their rapidly changing city, or fearful of what the changes may bring?
    2. To what extent do you find similar questions raised in a slightly earlier text, Congreve's Way of the World (NAEL 8, 1.2228)?
    3. Compare the attitudes in eighteenth-century works with your own attitudes toward modern cities. Would it be possible to keep what is good in the city while getting rid of what is bad, or are the good and bad integrally related?
  2. Crowds and commerce fill almost all the texts and pictures in this topic. In earlier ages, writers and artists often aimed to please a limited number of patrons and connoisseurs, but a larger public seems to dominate eighteenth-century London, and making a living is often the subject as well as the aim of its art.
    1. Consider the satisfaction which Addison takes in The Royal Exchange. Why does he love so much to visit it? Are you persuaded that his pleasure comes from being "a great Lover of Mankind," or is wealth itself what stimulates him?
    2. Many historians describe what happened in eighteenth-century England as The Birth of a Consumer Society (the title of a 1982 book by Neil McKendrick, John Brewer, and J. H. Plumb). According to this analysis, the widespread pursuit of good and entertainment turned England into the first truly modern nation, in which commercialization drives art as well as the economy. How well does this premise account for what you see in this topic?
  3. Joseph Addison and others described the city of London in a playfully scientific tone, as if they were disinterested scholars or visiting anthropologists. Such writings are examples of what can be called proto-ethnography, of which a later practitioner was the Victorian Henry Mayhew.
    1. What factors might account for the rise of proto-ethnography in Londoners' descriptions of their home? When they imagine the city seen through others eyes, whose eyes do they select and what do they hope (or fear) will be seen?
    2. Compare Addison as a writer on the Cries of London and the Royal Exchange with Addison as a writer on the "Plurality of Worlds" and the "Scale of Being" (NAEL 8, 1.2490).
  4. The naïve visitor from the country was a popular figure of fun for London's wits. Yet while Londoners laughed at figures like Addison's Sir Roger and Smollett's Matthew Bramble and Lydia Melford, they also wanted to impress them, and worried about what they might think.
    1. Consider Congreve's treatment of the country squire Sir Wilfull Witwould in The Way of the World (NAEL 8, 1.2228). Is Sir Wilfull simply a butt of mockery, or does he possess admirable qualities associated with his rural life?
    2. How do such images of country yokels compare with the representation of rural life in Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (NAEL 8, 1.2867), which deals with those who never made the trip to London?
  5. Although there had probably been a small Jewish community in London, even after the expulsion of Jews from England in the thirteenth century, Jews were officially allowed to reside in England after the mid-seventeenth century.
    1. How do writers like Jordan and Addison respond to the presence of Jews in London? Are they lumped with other foreigners, or is there a difference?
    2. What parallels does Dryden in Absalom and Achitophel (NAEL 8, 1.2087) see between contemporary London and old Jerusalem? Are there any tensions evident in his equation of the English with Jews?
  6. In Annus Mirabilis (NAEL 8, 1.2085), Dryden prophesies a glorious future for the city of London reborn from the ashes of the great fire.
    1. What aspects of London's future is Dryden most eager to celebrate? Does he imply that anything of value has been lost?
    2. To what extent do later observers such as Addison, Jordan, Smollett, and Swift share Dryden's vision of London and confirm his prophesy?
  7. Compare the description of shopkeepers in The Female Tatler with John Gower's medieval description of the Merchant Fraud. To what extent does The Female Tatler seem to belong to a tradition of anti-commercial satire? How has the perception of shopkeepers changed since Gower's time, and what factors might be responsible for this?
  8. Compare the image of an eighteenth-century playhouse with the picture of an Elizabethan playhouse (NAEL 8, volume B, A-80).
    1. What do differences in design suggest about the drama in these two eras? About the interests of the audience? About the societies that built them?
    2. Do the differences in design seem to confirm Johnson's account of the decline of English drama, and if so, how? Are there other ways of interpreting the changes in the shape of the theater? Search the Web for more information on and images of the theater in this period.
  9. How did women participate in the changing London scene? What social roles and behaviors do Swift, Smollett, Rowlandson, Hogarth, and the writer in The Female Tatler allow or allot to women? From what spheres do they seem to be excluded?
  10. Read an exchange of Restoration pamphlets on the The First English Coffeehouses, comparing them to Thomas Jordan's News from the Coffeehouse. What ideas about society and politics seem to lie behind the arguments for and against the coffeehouses? Which side is Jordan on?

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