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The Economics of Culture in London, 16601740 Author(s): Robert D. Hume Reviewed work(s): Source: Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol.

69, No. 4 (December 2006), pp. 487-533 Published by: University of California Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 14/06/2012 02:30
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The Economics of Culture in London, 16601740

Robert D. Hume

culture is a commodity produced for gain (whether pecuniary or otherwise) and offered for sale to the public, with or without success. This view of the poems, plays, novels, music, and painting studied by scholars of the long eighteenth century has been widely acknowledged in the last fifty years, but its implications have rarely been pursued.1 My interests are unabashedly quantitative. The New Economic Criticism and the Discourses of Economics now becoming popular have many useful things to tell us, but they seem singularly unconcerned with particular sums of money involved in the production or purchase of books, performances, or paintings. There is a fundamental difference between such imaginative economics or symbolic economies and the gritty realities of actual figures.2 As an example of what is possible
This article was written during a sabbatical year spent as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. I am grateful to the Institute and its staff for their hospitality and good offices. An oral version of this essay was delivered as a plenary lecture at the Leviathan to Licensing Act Conference, Loughborough University, 16 September 2004. Other versions were given as lectures at the University of Aberdeen on 27 April 2005 and at the EC/ASECS meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, on 29 October 2005. For advice, assistance, and helpful criticism I am indebted to Eve Tavor Bannet, Donald Burrows, Paul D. Cannan, David Coke, J. A. Downie, Don-John Dugas, Bertrand Goldgar, Clement Hawes, Benjamin Hebbert, Henry Horwitz, Kathryn Hume, David Hunter, Paulina Kewes, Matthew J. Kinservik, Thomas Lockwood, Harold Love, Ashley Marshall, Judith Milhous, Ronald Paulson, Hermann Real, and Gill Spraggs. Special thanks to Elaine Hobby, who was the begetter of this enterprise, if not quite its midwife. 1. The classic overview remains J. H. Plumbs The Commercialization of Leisure in EighteenthCentury England, a lecture given at the University of Reading in 1973 and revised for republication in Neil McKendrick, John Brewer, and J. H. Plumb, eds., The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England (London, 1982), 26585. Among numerous background studies of use are Lorna Weatherill, Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in Britain, 16601760 (1988; 2d ed. London, 1996); Peter Borsay, The English Urban Renaissance: Culture and Society in the Provincial Town, 16601770 (Oxford, 1989); and Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes (1987; rev. ed. London, 2002)the last concerning Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 17801850. 2. See, for example, Martha Woodmansee and Mark Osteen, eds., The New Economic Criticism: Studies at the Intersection of Literature and Economics (London, 1999); and Linda Woodbridge, ed.,

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Pp. 487533. 2006 by Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery. issn 0018-7895 | e-issn 1544-399x. All rights reserved. For permission to photocopy or reproduce article content, consult the University of California Presss Rights and Permissions webesite, DOI: HLQ.2006.69.4.487.


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in a slightly later period, I would point to William St. Clairs The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, a genuinely revolutionary quantitative investigation of how the economics of publishing and the regulation of copyright and the book trade affected public dissemination of and access to not only literature but also political, social, and philosophical ideas.3 For the 16601740 period information is in scantier supply than one could wish. Systematic accumulation of the relevant economic data has barely begun, and analysis of what has been collected remains rudimentary at best. We are probably twenty or thirty years away from anything approaching a thorough and systematic comprehension of the impact of economics upon English culture in this period. I offer the present sketch of an overview in the hope that it will stimulate colleagues to collect and publish additional evidence and to employ that evidence in ways that will help us understand the possibilities open to the creators and vendors of culture in all its manifestations. I shall address four principal questions. (1) Who were the consumers of elite culture, and what could and would they pay? (2) What could be earned by writers, actors, singers, musicians, painters? (3) Who actually profited from the sale of culture? (4) How did patronage affect the production of culture? Good answers can be offered for all four. A great deal of evidence exists, and though the market for culture changes enormously over the eighty years at issue, the changes are, I shall argue, relatively clear and comprehensible. The costs of production, the price of purchase, and the profits are essentially knowable. So are the classes of potential purchasers and the incomes of the producers. The importance of patronage has been both misunderstood and underestimated. Three blunt explanations about the definitions, assumptions, and modus operandi on which I am proceeding seem called for here at the outset. First, I should say that I am using culture in a fairly narrow sense rather than a broad anthropological one. I am concerned with the modern West, and with the books, theater, music, and painting produced for and consumed by what we would now think of as the middle and upper classes. Without quibbling over the meaning of elite, one might legitimately apply that adjective to the kind of culture I am investigating here. I am not talking about bear-baiting, cock-fighting, or boxing. Darts and morris dancing fall outside my purview. So do one-penny ballads sold by peddlers. Play booths and freak shows at fairs as described by Ned Ward are likewise beyond my bounds. I do not for an instant deny that a wide spectrum of customers went to Bartholomew Fair or contrariwise that apprentices sometimes bought expensive places in the London theaters. I am deliberately focusing on those parts of culture patronized by the nobility, the gentry, and what we would now call the middle classes. Relatively little attention is devoted to music
Money and the Age of Shakespeare: Essays in New Economic Criticism (New York, 2003). For the concepts behind such work, see, for example, Kurt Heinzelman, The Economics of the Imagination (Amherst, Mass., 1980) and Jean-Joseph Goux, Symbolic Economies (Ithaca, N.Y., 1990). 3. Published by Cambridge University Press in 2004.

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(other than opera) because the relevant information for this period is scanty and difficult to interpret. I have incorporated some basic figures for concerts and the purchase of instruments in my conclusion.4 Second, within the definition of culture adopted here, the scope of this investigation is broad and ambitious. Some readers of my draft have been disconcerted by my treatment of both producers of culture and consumers of culture in the same piece. The combination is deliberate. Indeed, I believe that it is conceptually vital to any such study. Culture cannot be consumed unless it is produced, but usually it will not be produced unless it is consumed. To understand what was on offer and what could be gained by it, we have to know what potential demand existed and what sort of prices potential buyers could pay. The symbiosis between production and consumption cannot be ignored. Other readers have been uncomfortable about my treating performance and print culture together. Yet a different group has expressed unhappiness about my inclusion of painting and opera, which seem different from theater and books, and so elite as to fall entirely beyond the means of bourgeois consumers. I would argue that we need such comparisons, including some that involve extraordinarily expensive forms of culture. We learn something about the cost of books (for example) when we compare their cost with theater, concerts, opera, and the purchase of paintings. The distinction between what is readily affordable for bourgeois consumers and what is punitively expensive for them (or totally out of their reach) is important. This investigation cannot in its nature be exhaustive in any realm, but it can and should invite comparisons. Third, severe evidentiary problems must be admitted. Specific, verifiable figures are lacking in almost every realm in which we need facts. We have some information about earnings, but little knowledge about how consumers actually spent their money. No daily records of theater receipts survive until 1714, and none for Drury Lane until 1740. Concerts were becoming an important part of cultural life in London by the 1690s, but I have little to say about them because financial evidence is sparse in the period at issue. We can only guess at prices for a large number of the books that were published, and we rarely know what their authors were paid. A great deal may ultimately be gleaned from domestic accounts surviving in manuscript (both about cost of living generally and cultural purchases in particular), but this will require extended labor by many scholars. Anecdotal evidence exists in only modest profusion, and it must be regarded with skepticism. For example, where we can test newspaper reports of singers salaries against actual contracts, account books, or court testimony, the published figures turn out to be massively inflated in a large proportion of cases.5 When we are told that Dryden found a banknote for 100 under his dinner plate, the gift of the Earl of Dorset, we need to remember that 100 was a sum on which a bourgeois family could
4. The second half of the century is considerably better documented. For a useful overview, see Deborah Rohr, The Careers of British Musicians, 17501850: A Profession of Artisans (Cambridge, 2001). 5. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, Opera Salaries in Eighteenth-Century London, Journal of the American Musicological Society 46 (1993): 2683.


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live for a whole year (an anecdote discussed below). We have no way to determine whether this is a fantastically generous gift from a man who could afford such a gesture or a tall tale. To ignore such problems with evidence, or to pretend that we have all the evidence we could want, would be irresponsible. I believe, however, that the particulars collected and analyzed here are sufficient to substantiate a number of fairly strong conclusions. This investigation focuses on elite as opposed to plebian forms of culture, but for the most part we need to pay particular attention to the ordinary. What the Duke of Buckingham could afford to spend or what Sir Peter Lely earned from painting is pertinent, but not really the point. We would like to know what the whole spectrum of potential purchasers had to spend and what they bought. Likewise, we want to know not only what sums were lavished on castrato opera stars but also what kind of living hackwriters and second violinists could earn. Shortage of evidence makes this difficult. Even within the realms of the elite, our sources are skewed. We know quite a lot about Alexander Popes finances, but very little of Thomas Durfeys or Eliza Haywoods. However interesting the figures preserved for Dryden, Defoe, Pope, Swift, or Fielding, they are probably little more representative than those for Norman Mailer, Stephen King, or J. K. Rowling in a later age. We should certainly not ignore Pepyss extensive documentation of his spendingbut must not forget that he rapidly became very rich. Our central concern needs to be with the normal and mundane, not the extraordinary. The Value of Money Any attempt to investigate the economics of the past inevitably falls foul of a crucial and essentially insoluble problem: we need to know what money was worth at any particular date. One wants both to know the purchasing power of a pound at whatever date one is writing about and to understand it in terms of present value. Unfortunately, the standard approach to such calculations leads to deceptive results, for reasons I shall try briefly to explain. The difficulty, in essence, is that various commodities, products, and services change in cost at very different rates over time.6 Even if we knew exact prices for all sorts of things at all dates (which we do not), any single item may yield a wildly misleading multiplier for comparison to present-day currency when this figure is applied to any other item. In the period at issue, food was very pricey while housing was cheap. Consequently, one cannot use the same multiplier for both. To the extent that figures survive, one can create an index of sorts, but such indexes tend to be misleading (as official government cost of living increases are today). Let me illustrate. The Economic History website price comparator (eh.netwhich uses figures from the work of the highly respected John J. McCusker) tells us that in 1623 (the date of the First Folio), its 1 price was worth 107 in terms of buying power in 2002. By McCuskers conversion factors, in 2002 terms, 1 had buying power of 92 in 1660; 108 in 1680; 111 in 1700; 113 in 1720; and 98 in 1740. Over the long term, seventeenth- and early6. Equivalency in product is also problematic. As I write in 2005 one may get lunch in London for 3 at McDonalds or for 100 at Gordon Ramsay (the latter with only modest beverages).

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eighteenth-century prices were relatively stable, and one might imagine that multiplying by one hundred would yield a general approximation of prices circa 2000. This would, however, be a very reckless operating assumption. Working (somewhat tongue in cheek) from the weekly wages of unskilled laborers circa 1620, William Ingram compares them with the earnings of minimum wage workers circa 1990 and establishes a multiplier in the vicinity of one thousanda tenfold difference.7 Even if we accept Ingrams more cautious suggestion that we should use a multiplier between five and eight hundred, that puts us in a different financial universe from a modern equivalent only one hundred times an early-seventeenth-century figure. One must, of course, allow for differences in taxation. Income tax as we know it did not exist in the period at issue, so an income of, say, 200 per annum was largely spendable, and neither was there vat, but there were steep import duties and a variety of wealth taxes. Estimates of annual incomes for various professions do not include additional income: the clergymen whose livings yielded less than 10and there were thousands of themmust have supplemented their church incomes with teaching, clerical work, farming (consider Goldsmiths Dr. Primrose), and other occupations. But adjust as we may, we will find that no single multiplier makes sense. Consider theatrical salaries. Bottom of scale for an actor in about 1700 was 30 per annum. One could live on this sum, even in London: Samuel Johnson estimated his own basic living expenses at precisely that figure for his early years there.8 But by the multiplier, it would amount to 3,337 in 2002, which is not a sum on which to live, however frugally. How much an eighteenth-century actor might have supplemented his or her income is not possible to calculate. Top of scale for the most distinguished living actors was 150 per annum (intended to be paid in full without a benefit), or 15,000 in modern terms by this multiplier. These sums seem far too low, even if we ignore the incomes of film actors and opera stars. At these rates a 1s. gallery seat would come to 5, a 4s. box seat to 20 (low by half or more). The price of an opera ticket for pit or box settled at 10s. 6d., which by the multiplier would amount to less than a third of the cost of a comparable ticket at the Royal Opera House circa 2000. Beer was wonderfully cheap in the early eighteenth century at 1d. per pot (whereas porter was 3d. and ale a steep 1s.1s. 6d.).9 If we multiply by one hundred, the modern cost would be only 42 pence, which is low by a factor of at least four and more plausibly six. Decent wine from a tavern, however, could cost 5s. a bottle (transport and tax both running high), which would make it 25 if multiplied by one hundred and 75 if multiplied by three hundred. The most common price of a small book or pamphlet was 6d., or about 2.50 if our multiplier is one hundred. This is low by a factor of three. Housing was relatively affordable (6d. to half a guinea per week to rent two rooms), which might imply a multiplier of at least six hundred.10 Fancy clothes tended to be very costly. By
7. William Ingram, The Business of Playing (Ithaca, N.Y., 1992), 36. 8. Boswells Life of Johnson, ed. George Birkbeck Hill, rev. L. F. Powell, 6 vols. (Oxford, 193450), 1:1036. 9. These figures (and that for wine, below) are from Csar de Saussure, A Foreign View of England in 17251729, trans. Madame van Muyden (1902; reprint ed., London, 1995), 99. 10. Saussure, A Foreign View of England, 103.


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16 December 1667 Pepys was cheerfully spending 6 on fabric for a cloak and 8 for the outside of a velvet one. The point here is obvious but vital: we cannot afford to succumb to the temptation to say that 1 in 1700 has an equivalent buying power of any particular sum today, because the buying power varies drastically with what is being bought. In the little survey just concluded, we have seen multipliers from 100 to 600, each arguably valid in its own terms. We might say loosely that in the realms studied here prices have generally risen by two to three hundred times (sometimes more, sometimes less). Whether we regard the present value of say, 5 shillings, as 50 or 75 (or arguably more or less), most consumers of culture will find the sum significanteven if they can freely spend it. As I write, upper-tier prices in London commercial theaters are mostly 35 to 45, with cheapest unrestricted view at 15 to 20. A seventeenth-century family of four sitting in a box would now be spending 160, which in addition to a couple of cab rides and some drinks would come to over 200 for the outing. The theaters are often crowded: obviously many consumers can and do pay this price. My point is that the cost of the jaunt is essentially similar in 1700 and in 2000; but to understand the costliness, we have to know who had the requisite money.11 This brings us to the problem of identifying and analyzing the potential buyers. We will find that for a very high percentage of the population of London between 1660 and 1740, a sum of, say, 5 shillings was far from negligible. Income Strata and the Purchasers of Culture Who could afford to spend how much on culture? How many people were potential purchasers of culture? Even the most systematic culling of surviving account books and diaries will probably not lead to unassailable conclusions. Detailed statistical information of the sort collected by the nineteenth-century British government never existed for earlier centuries. About the best we can now do for the period at issue is to turn to such familiar sources as Gregory Kings Natural and Political Observations (a 1696 analysis of the economic situation as of 1688),12 Henri Missons Memoirs (concerning the reign of William III, translated in 1719), Csar de Saussures A Foreign View of England in 17251729 (translated in 1902), Jacob Vanderlints Money answers all Things (1734)and, for comparison with a date beyond the period under consideration here, Joseph Massies Calculations of the Present Taxes (1761). To rely on figures whose sources and mode of calculation we do not know and cannot fully check is manifestly dangerous.13 Historians have generally agreed, however, that faute de mieux the figures must be used, albeit with some degree of skepticism and caution.

11. See Lee Soltow, Long-Run Changes in British Income Inequality, Economic History Review, 2d ser., 21 (1968): 1729. 12. Natural and Political Observations and Conclusions upon the State and Condition of England, in Two Tracts by Gregory King, ed. George E. Barnett (Baltimore, 1936), 31. 13. G. S. Holmes, for example, points out some disquieting features of Kings figures and categories; see Gregory King and the Social Structure of Pre-Industrial England, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 27 (1977): 4168.

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Cross-checking King and Massie against raw data from the periods in question has led to the conclusion that their figures are broadly reliable but that significant adjustments should be made both in incomes at the top of the scale and in subdivisions of various social classifications. For the purposes of this essay, I am therefore relying on the revisions to King and Massie proposed by Lindert and Williamson.14 An obvious question arises at this point: does inflation invalidate the use of Kings (emended) figures for any date other than circa 1688? Lacking alternative sources, historians have employed King for any time from about 1660 to a century later. Yet we know that prices fluctuated with drought and war: can we legitimately apply Kings figures to 1715 or 1740? Obviously, the fit is less than perfect, but we can compare them with Massies calculations for the later 1750s, and the correlation is surprisingly good.15 The percentages assigned to various social classifications alter here and there, but the income shares of various groups change very little. The per capita total went up a bit between 1688 and 1759 (about 18 percent according to Lindert and Williamsons proposed revisions of our primary sources), but the general economic picture is not greatly altered.16 The population at this time remained fairly stable, increasing only about 8.5 percent over eighty years, to some 5,576,000.17 Inflation was relatively mild overall in the period at issue. Agricultural prices rise and fall with aberrations in weather, and wars sometimes cause abrupt spikes (as around 1697), but such sources as Horsefield, Beveridge, Deane and Cole, Burnett, and Mitchell suggest overall stability in price structures (in sharp contrast to the Jacobean period, for example).18 Theater admission prices remain constant from 1660 to the 1740s; go up 1s. for
14. See Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson, Revising Englands Social Tables, 16881812, Explorations in Economic History 19 (1982): 385408, and Reinterpreting Britains Social Tables, 16881913, Explorations in Economic History 20 (1983): 94109. For example, in the earlier article they note that Numerous 17th century documents strongly suggest that King grossly overestimated common laborers and paupers, while undercounting artisans (p. 387). They revise the total of persons in science and liberal arts down from 16,000 to 12,898 (p. 388). By their calculations, Kings guesses on average family income are vindicated for lower-ranked occupations but disproved for the upper classes (whose incomes were substantially higher than Kings estimates [p. 391]). Testing King against data now available to economic historians, they offer a picture in which the rich have got richer, the poor are fewer, and the middle groups more populated (p. 394). They are very blunt in stating that their revised figures are an improvement, while admitting that their calculations will be subject to further revision as data accumulate (p. 405). 15. Kings figures were not published until 1936, so Massie probably had no access to them. 16. See Lindert and Williamson, Reinterpreting Britains Social Tables, p. 102 (Table 3). One can derive a larger figure from other sources. The real wage index chart supplied by Wrigley and Schofield suggests a more than 35 percent increase between King and Massie, and a more than 40 percent increase between 1660 and 1740. See E. A. Wrigley and R. S. Schofield, The Population History of England, 15411871 (1981; rev. ed. Cambridge, 1989), xxii. 17. Wrigley and Schofield, Population History of England, 2079. 18. J. Keith Horsefield, British Monetary Experiments, 16501710 (London, 1960); Lord Beveridge, et al., Prices and Wages in England from the Twelfth to the Nineteenth Century, vol. 1: Price Tables (London, 1965); Phyllis Deane and W. A. Cole, British Economic Growth, 16881959, 2d ed. (Cambridge, 1967); John Burnett, A History of the Cost of Living (Harmondsworth, U.K., 1969); B. R. Mitchell, British Historical Statistics (Cambridge, 1988). Current understanding of eighteenthcentury economic history has changed rapidly in recent years, as witness the differences between the


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box seats (causing some protest); and then remain unchanged until new theaters are built in the 1790s.19 For the purposes of buying culture, 1 did not have greatly different purchasing power in 1740 from what it had in 1660.20 Neither (overall) were many more people possessed of sufficient means to buy cultural artifacts. However, the population of London was growing, and this increased the number of people with ready access to theaters and bookshops. To be specific, the population of London increased from 375,000 in 1650 to at least 490,000 in 1700 and to 675,000 by 1750an 80 percent increase during a century in which the total population of England went up only about 10.5 percent.21 In short, we possess some apparently stable and reliable figures about incomes and costs. We are left to ask what those figures really mean. Our problem, reduced to its crux, is simple. If we know that something cost, say, 5 shillings, is that a lot or a little? This depends on who is being asked to pay it, and people allocate their money in radically different ways. People who can easily pay will not necessarily do so; contrariwise, others will splurge or scrimp and save to acquire something. According to Lindert and Williamsons emendation of Kings figures, as of 1688 only about 71,000 families in all of England had gross annual incomes of 100 or more (about 5 percent of some 1,390,000 families).22 We must, of course, remember that income derived from landholding could vary drastically from year to year depending on harvests and the ever-fluctuating price of corn. By their revision of Kings estimates, rank/occupation and income were as follows:

original edition of Floud and McCloskey (1981) and its successors; see The Economic History of Britain since 1700, vol. 1: 17001860, rev. ed. (Cambridge, 1994); and Roderick Floud and Paul Johnson, eds., The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain, vol. 1: 17001860 (Cambridge, 2004). For an authoritative recent account, see M. J. Daunton, Progress and Poverty: An Economic and Social History of Britain, 17001850 (Oxford, 1995). 19. For the benefit of those not familiar with the pre-decimal currency Britain finally abandoned in 1971, I note that 12 pennies (abbreviated d.) constituted a shilling (s.) and twenty shillings constituted a pound. A guinea was 21s. 20. The authors of a recent study of class inequality with respect to income observe that the rich, the poor, and the middle-income ranks consume very different bundles of goods and services, which makes any index heavily weighted to staples misleading for upper-end groups. For the period at issue here, they point out that the cost of living for the poor rose and fell dramatically relative to the cost of living for the rich. See Philip T. Hoffman, Davis S. Jacks, Patricia A. Levin, and Peter H. Lindert, Real Inequality in Europe since 1500, Journal of Economic History 62 (2002): 32255; quotations at 322 and 325. 21. Roger Finlay and Beatrice Shearer, Population Growth and Suburban Expansion, in A. L. Beier and Roger Finlay, eds., London 15001700: The Making of the Metropolis (London, 1986), 3759 at 39. Readers should note that historians estimates of the population of London vary widely throughout this period. 22. We need to remember that much or all of many of these incomes was derived from landed property and inheritance rather than from salary earned from a job. Urban property could be rented out; country property could generate rents or farm produce or both. Many people who had salaried jobs derived part of their income from property. Shorter life spans meant that people inherited property sooner and oftener than is now the case.

the economics of culture in london, 16601740

High Titles and Professions 200 Temporal Lords 6,060 p.a. 26 Spiritual Lords [Bishops]1,300 p.a. 800 Baronets 1,500 p.a. 600 Knights 800 p.a. 3,000 Esquires 562 p.a. 15,000 Gentlemen 280 p.a. 5,000 Persons in offices 240 p.a. 5,000 More persons in offices 120 p.a. 8,062 Persons in the law 154 p.a. 2,000 Clergymen 72 p.a. 10,000 More clergymen 50 p.a. 12,898 Persons in sciences & lib. arts 60 p.a. Commerce 5,264 Merchants and traders 400 p.a. 21,057 More merchants and traders 200 p.a. 101,704 Shopkeepers and tradesmen 45 p.a.


Industry and Building 6,745 Artisans and Handycrafts 200 p.a. 162,283 Manufacturing trades 38 p.a. 73,018 Building trades 25 p.a. 14,240 Miners 15 p.a. Agriculture 27,568 Freeholders 91 p.a. 96,490 More freeholders 55 p.a. 103,382 Farmers 42 p.a. Military and Maritime 5,000 Naval officers 80 p.a. 4,000 Army Officers 60 p.a. 50,000 Common seamen 20 p.a. 35,000 Common soldiers 14 p.a. Laborers and Poor 284,997 Laborers and outservants 15 p.a. 313,183 Cottagers and paupers 6.5 p.a. 23,489 Vagrants 2 p.a.

Some of these incomes supported large families and retinues. King presumes forty family members and servants for the nobility, and households of twenty for the bishops. Averages are, of course, treacherous. Early in the eighteenth century sixteen of the bishops had incomes under 1,000 per annum; six received between 1,000 and 2,000; three enjoyed incomes above 3,000. As late as 1762 Canterbury yielded 7,000, Bristol just 450.23 But if Kings emended approximations are even roughly accurate, the economic capacity to purchase culture was very narrowly concentrated, in the upper reaches of the groups specified in this list. The numerous small freeholders, farmers, shopkeepers, manufacturing and trade laborers, construction workers, miners, seamen, soldiers, laborers, cottagers, paupers, and vagrants simply could not afford to purchase or witness much (if any) elite culture. We must assume higher than average income and prices for people living in London. Vanderlint calculates that the annual charge of maintaining a laboring man and his wife and four children in London with food, light, coal, clothes, and two rooms would come to some 55 per annum, with food and clothes claiming between 55 and 75 percent of the totaland housing estimated at only about 4.24 By his reckoning, seven-eighths of the population fell at or below this level. For a family in the middling Station of Life (husband, wife, four children, and one maid) he calculates a basic annual budget of 315 (plus 75 per annum needed to secure the future of wife and children). He assumes that such a family will spend 4 per annum on entertainment of friends and
23. See D. R. Hirschberg, Episcopal Incomes and Expenses, 1660c.1760, in Rosemary ODay and Felicity Heal, eds., Princes and Paupers in the English Church, 15001800 (Leicester, 1981), 21130 at 212. 24. Jacob Vanderlint, Money answers all Things (London, 1734), esp. 22, 7576, 14142, 14546.


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some 50 on rent and taxes. In his view, the minimum annual income for a gentleman is 500. His figures imply that only about five thousand families in England would qualify, a substantial number of whom would be resident in London at least part of the year. Vanderlints assumptions correlate surprisingly well with the implications of Kings figures. Some of the families possessed of such an income probably spent nothing on culture, while some of the military officers and persons in sciences and liberal arts no doubt spent disproportionately on books, plays, and music. Spending patterns are individual and highly variable. A conceptual difficulty in the calculation of income needs to be addressed at this point. So far as I can see, King, Vanderlint, and others supply estimates of gross annual income. How they factor in bartering or the economic benefit of doing some farming on the side (if they do) is not at all clear. A related problem is that official cash income is not necessarily the same thing as total benefit. Servants (and sometimes others) received food and lodging. Some positions were worth more in graft and gratuities than in salary. This was true of Pepyss navy job, and apparently true for some ticket takers in the theaters. Figures showing nightly payments to members of the opera orchestra tell us nothing about what the players earned from concerts or from teaching. Secondary income can be more important than the primary income for which we have records. The actor William Pinkethman, for example, earned a 100 per annum salary (plus a benefit at 40 house charges), but even early in Pinkethmans career John Downes says enviously, Hes the darling of Fortunatus, he has gaind more in Theatres and Fairs in Twelve Years, than those that have Tuggd at the Oar of Acting these 50.25 We cannot know how early arithmeticians arrived at their estimates or exactly what they included, and therefore such figures do not necessarily represent the whole of the incomes of those connected with the theater. Mention must be made here of the problem of class. I do not propose to rehearse the scholarly wars of the last forty years concerning the existence or nonexistence of a middle class. No such thing was recognized during the period 16601740 in any modern sense of that phrase. In Kings figures, and in reality, there were a modest number of people who fell, economically, somewhere between artisans (who lived a notch above subsistence level) and the gentry. Terms such as the middling sort and the trading classes were applied to such people at the time. These groups had a high rate of literacy and some disposable income. Given the desperate poverty of most of the population (upwards of 90 percent earning less than 50 per annum),26 the growth of this protomiddle class is obviously crucial to changes in the consumption of culture.27
25. John Downes, Roscius Anglicanus, ed. Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume (London, 1987), 108. Pinkethmans contracted salary as of 1709 is reported in the National Archives LC 7/3, fols. 11314. He was a fabulously successful operator of fair booth shows and later of suburban summer theaters. 26. This figure is from Douglas Hay and Nicholas Rogers, Eighteenth-Century English Society (New York, 1997), 19. Kings figures show 87 percent under 50; Lindert and Williamsons revisions suggest 83 percent. 27. For a wide-ranging introduction to the evidentiary problems and historiographic debates, see Margaret R. Hunt, The Middling Sort: Commerce, Gender, and the Family in England, 16801780

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Employing Peter Earles plausible estimates, we may guess that a middling family with a 200 income and two servants might on average have something like 16 of discretionary income to spend in the course of a year.28 A bachelor of simple tastes might have much more; some families would not have had a penny to spare. But looking to the average, this amounts to 27s. per month. A trip to the theater for papa, mama, and two bambini would cost exactly 4s. if they sat in the second gallery, took no refreshment, and walked to and from the theater. If they sat in a box, the jaunt would cost 16s.probably plus 2s. for oranges all around and another 2s. coach fare to avoid the muddy streets. Add a meal in a decent tavern, and the 27s. would be gone, to judge from Pepyss reports of eating out. A set of distinctions needs to be made. First, we must acknowledge the difference between occasional and habitual consumers of culture. Many people might go to the theater as a special treat, but they represent a very different market from those who went two or three times a week (or more). Seasonal patterns represent another important difference. A London resident is a potential customer year round, or close to it; someone who lives in Remoteshire and comes for the season, a session of Parliament, or a court term will be a much more occasional purchaser. And third, there is the vital question of the economic levels to which potential customers belong. Selling a book at 6d. to three thousand people grosses 75; selling a fancier book at 5s. to five hundred people grosses 125 (ignoring dealer discounts). In the theater you may fill your second gallery at 1s. per head, but if the pit and boxes are sparsely populated you will have a very bad night.29 Contemplating the implications of these figures I will venture two observations. First, no more than about 5 percent of the total population of England and Wales could have had the discretionary spending capacity to indulge significantly in the purchase of elite culture. Most of that group can have had little money to spare (what with debt, large families, dowries to pay, and so on). A good many probably came to London rarely if at alland some must have been totally uninterested in culture. Second, most of our 5 percent (and probably a moderate number of others) could indulge in relatively cheap books or amusements but could not regularly afford expensive ones. In the late seventeenth century, when the population was still sparse and there were relatively poor communications around the country, the critical mass of potential buyers of elite
(Berkeley, Calif., 1996). For a fundamental demolition of the emulation and other social models of the later twentieth century, see Henry Horwitz, The mess of the middle class Revisited: The Case of the big bourgeoisie of Augustan London, Continuity and Change 2 (1987): 26396. For a salutary examination of the dangers of imposing our terminology on the period at issue, see Keith Wrightson, Sorts of People in Tudor and Stuart England, in Jonathan Barry and Christopher Brooks, eds., The Middling Sort of People: Culture, Society, and Politics in England, 15501800 (London, 1994), 2851. 28. My discussion here is indebted to Peter Earle, The Making of the English Middle Class (London, 1989), chap. 10. 29. Social geography within London is also an issue, especially for theaters. The location of Vanbrughs Haymarket Theatre was evidently a drawback early in its history, and Goodmans Fields was built in that location to make it accessible to customers who lived in the City. On the distribution of wealth within late-seventeenth-century London, see M. J. Power, The Social Topography of Restoration London, chap. 7 of Beier and Finlay, eds., London 15001700.


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culture was too small to make it very profitable. Such culture must, therefore, have been largely driven by the very small proportion of the population that was sufficiently affluent to afford luxuries. The economic history of the eighty years at issue here is essentially the story of how the buying power of citizens and the lesser gentry increased to the point at which serious money could be made by appealing to the taste of what we would now call middle class consumers. By way of comparison with social categories and generalities about consumers, let us turn briefly to a very particular (if atypical) buyer. Samuel Pepyss income and expenditures are extraordinarily well documented. Happily, he was an avid theatergoer, a lover of music, and a bibliophile. At the start of the diary in 1660, he was a clerk with a 50 annual salary (19 January 1660)plus small fees and gratuities.30 Even out of that limited budget he contrived to give his mistress Mrs Jem a gift of 5 (21 January 1660). At this time he deliberately carried only 3d. in ready money as a means of avoiding wasteful spending (16 February 1660). When he buys Playfords great book of songs for 14s., he trades two others for it and adds 6s. 6d. in cash (13 February 1660). In the summer of 1660 William Coventry obtained a place for him as a Navy Commissioner at 350 (of which he got only 250 until the displaced officeholder died in 1665), though he reckoned on 10 August 1660 that with gifts and commissions he might expect to net 3 per day on average (roughly 1,000 per annum), and this proved to be a considerable underestimate. Pepys continued to believe, however, that 50 per annum was a satisfactory income for his parents (15 September 1663). There were, inevitably, expenses. He was relieved to be taxed only 10s. on his social standing in 1660, since he was well aware that as one now entitled to call himself Esquire he ought to pay 10 (10 December 1660). He bought a piece of plate worth 19 as a thankyou gift for Coventry (4 July 1660), and as early as August 1660 he lavished 2 10s. on a petticoat for his wife (18 August 1660). Yet when he visited the theater in January 1661 he took a place in the 1s. 6d. galleryand was mortified when he saw clerks from his office in 2s. 6d. places in the pit (19 January 1661). The same month he threw a pretentious dinner party whose cost he calculated at above 5 (24 January). On 22 November 1661 he gave a party at the Dolphin costing 4, plus another 2 for music; on 29 November he took an 18d. place in the theater. Pepys could spend significant sums if he chose to. He agreed to buy and donate 5 in books to St. Pauls School (23 December 1661) and he paid a cheap painter 6 (plus 36s. for frames) for portraits of himself and his wife (16 January 1662).31 By 1662 he was promising his wife 20 for Easter clothes (9 February). Yet a maid cost 3 per annum (26 March 1662plus food and lodging), and Pepys was shocked exactly a year later when he had to pay 4 for a cook (26 March 1663). He laid out 8 10s. for a velvet cloak on 17 May 1662 and 5 for two perriwigs (31 October 1663) and was
30. References to Pepys (given here by date) are to The Diary of Samuel Pepys, ed. Robert Latham and William Matthews, 11 vols. (London, 197083). 31. Six years later, increasingly extravagant, Pepys was willing to pay 30 for a miniature picture of his wifes head (29 March 1668). Five months after that, he wondered whether he should offer 200 for a Holbein in poor condition, said to be worth 1000 (29 August 1668).

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proud of being able to do so. Yet when he visited his bookseller on 10 December 1663 to spend 2 or 3, he hesitated, wondering whether to buy a Third Folio Shakespeare (probably 1)or Jonson, or Chaucer, or Beaumont and Fletcher. He wound up buying Fullers Worthys and a collection of Letters of State. He certainly had the money: his gross income by the mid-1660s was about 1,000 and more per annum, and he was saving about half of it. But when Pepys established a budget for 1664, he allocated 50s. (2 10s.) to theater for the whole year (2 January). He regarded the theater as a guilty pleasure: he tried to resist temptation and punished himself for succumbing, though what he spent was utterly negligible considered in the light of an annual income well above the average that King calculates for all categories save peers and bishops. As a contrast to Pepyss lavish remuneration as a civil servant, we might look to the salary scale of the Commission of Public Accounts when it was established in 1691. The secretary got 100 per annum; two bookkeepers got 80 each; the secretarys assistant received 50; a messenger 30; a doorkeeper 25; and a porter 16.32 No doubt many prosperous people shared Pepyss discomfort about spending money on the ephemeral pleasures of the theater. Contrariwise, we may suppose that many people with a fifth or even a tenth of his income contrived to go to the theater at least as often. Simple math, however, tells us that precious few people in England could afford to buy the 1 and 2 books that Pepys indulged in. He did not regard himself as rich, however. After receiving some 70 in royal, ducal, and other bounty on his voyage to greet the returning king, he calculated his net worth as near 100 (3 June 1660). As of August 1665 it had increased more than twenty-fold, to a point that he had once thought would let him become a knight and keep a carriage (2 March 1662). By October 1667 his net worth had risen above 6,000. To be really rich, in his view, one needed a net worth of 10,000 to 12,000 (19 February 1664). The Duke of Buckingham had an income of about 20,000 per annum in the 1660s and wildly overspent it. But a theater manager or a publisher in search of a customer base would have regarded Pepys and others in his income bracket as the crucial upper-end supporters of elite culture. We must remember that when Charles II came to the theater (once or twice a month on average) he paid 10 to do so, and when he commanded a performance at court he paid a flat fee of 20.33 The value of royal attendance lay more in social cachet than in moneywhich often took years to collect in any case. When the Duke of Buckingham attended the theater he presumably took a boxwhich cost him the same 16s. that Pepys spent in the later 1660s when he treated his wife and a couple of friends to a box. Elite portrait painters might hope for lavish commissions from the very rich, but theaters and publishers had to rely on patrons well represented by the likes of Samuel Pepys. Thanks to the perquisites of his job, Pepys had money to

32. British Library, Harleian MS 1488, fols. 1011. I owe this reference to the kindness of Alan Downie. 33. See, for example, the National Archives LC 5/139, p. 127 (bill for royal attendance at Bridges Street in the later 1660s). If the queen attended too, a separate box was taken for her at the same price. In the 1680s James II and his queen sat together in the same box, saving 10 (LC 5/147, pp. 6869).


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burnbut he was far more inclined to spend it on showy clothes and dinner parties than on literature, music, and theater. Purchasing patterns also vary across the centuries. We tend, for example, to buy new clothes, but in the long eighteenth century only the well-to-do would have done so. Others would have gone to secondhand dealers, or to the botchers, who bought worn-out clothes and repaired them. Clothes were re-used until they fell to bits and were then sold to be recycled into paper manufacture. Obtaining prices for new clothes is not easy; getting prices for used clothing still harderbut even the theaters bought a lot of used clothes for service as costumes. Book purchase is another form of consumption in which trade-ins and secondhand purchase were very much the norm for many people, and since prices were generally not advertised in any way they are very hard to determine. Paintings could be bought secondhand from a dealer. Practically anything might be bought from a pawnshop. This is vastly less true today. (Automobiles are now one of the few items that middling persons buy used rather than new.) Because of the normalcy of early death, the total stock of household property turned over at a rapid rate, making a lot of pre-owned property available at all times. In the country, people lived off the land, traded produce, and perhaps did some quiet poaching. Many kinds of tradesmen gave credit (and knew they would have trouble collecting all of what was owed them). We are not dealing with a pure cash economy and making the necessary allowances is for the most part a matter of guesswork.34 Earning a Living from the Theater The theaters were a potential source of income for playwrights, proprietors, performers, and house servants. The principal beneficiaries, however, were proprietors. Two factors exercise crucial influence on the money that could be made out of the theaters: capacity, or maximum gross, and restrictions on competition. Neither has received much attention from historians of the drama. Relatively few figures survive concerning actor and playwright remuneration before 1642. Prices went up considerably from the 6 cash payments known for the 1590s. Daborne reports potential profits of 20 or 25 per play circa 1613 and in the 1630s Brome was getting 15s. and later 20s. per week salary plus a benefit worth at least 5 for each new play.35 After 1660 playwrights received the profits of the third night (from the 1690s, also the sixth and ultimately the ninth night, if the play lasted that long).36 What playwrights actually earned from authors benefits before 1714 is almost entirely unknown.37 In the 1660s the sums must have been small. The price scale was
34. I am indebted to Harold Love for several of these points. 35. For a convenient overview of known evidence, see Gerald Eades Bentley, The Profession of Dramatist in Shakespeares Time (Princeton, N.J., 1971), esp. 97, 99, 105, 106. 36. Only Dryden is known to have received substantial additional remuneration over a lengthy period, and he got a share in the Kings Companys profits, not a salary. Those profits were probably considerable at times, but their total value is impossible to estimate. 37. For a detailed analysis of all known evidence from 1660 to 1800, see Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, Playwrights Remuneration in Eighteenth-Century London, Harvard Library Bulletin, n.s. 10 (1999): 390, on which the present discussion draws heavily.

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4s. in the boxes, 2s. 6d. in the pit, 1s. 6d. in the first gallery, and 1s. in the second galleryin comparison with Shakespeares day, very steep charges. The original Vere Street and Lincolns Inn Fields theaters apparently held no more than four or five hundred spectators, and the gross receipts for a full house were probably about 50. House charges could not have been much less than 20 and the playwrights profit about 30 if we can assume something like a capacity audience.38 Later figures, however, show that the theaters were almost never full, even at benefits, so very likely they were not packed in the 1660s either. Dorset Garden and Drury Lane, constructed in the early 1670s, had a normal maximum gross of about 105 (with serious crowding); subtracting the customary house charges of 25, the playwright might receive as much as 80if the play was staged at all, and before a full house. We can be reasonably sure that playwrights collected the gross, less whatever house charges were assessed. What we have no way to know is how much more they gained from gifts and benefit tickets sold above face value. A well-connected writer like Thomas Southerne who was prepared to undertake the drudgery of sollicitation could collect a lot more than someone like Dryden, who declined to demean himself by pestering his wealthy friends and acquaintances.39 A patron could pay any sum for a ticket, and might not even use it. The expression by guineas employed in this context in the eighteenth century means that the purchaser gave a guinea for the ticket, even though the cash value was only four or five shillingsquadruple or quintuple the actual price.40 To be assured of eating, a playwright pretty much needed to get a new play successfully staged every year. This was essentially impossible, for lengthy periods. Quite a few new plays were professionally staged in London between 1660 and 1700 (more than four hundred of them), but the number per year varies drastically. When the Kings and Dukes Companies were competing fiercely in the mid-1670s, twelve, fifteen, and even twenty new plays were staged in a season. When the union of 1682
38. The playwright could of course sell his script to a publisher, and might hope to sell some tickets to patrons and friends for more than face value. 39. Mr. Southern was industrious to draw all imaginable profits from his poetical labours. Mr. Dryden once took occasion to ask him how much he got by one of his plays; to which he answered, that he was really ashamed to inform him. But Mr. Dryden being a little importunate to know, he plainly told him, that by his last play he cleared seven hundred pounds; which appeared astonishing to Mr. Dryden, as he himself had never been able to acquire more than one hundred by any of his most successful pieces. The secret is, Mr. Southern was not beneath the drudgery of sollicitation, and often sold his tickets at a very high price, by making applications to persons of distinction: a degree of servility which perhaps Mr. Dryden thought was much beneath the dignity of a poet; and too much in the character of an under-player; Mr. Cibber, and other Hands [i.e., Robert Shiels], The Lives of the Poets, 5 vols. (London, 1753), 5:32829. This source is late and of dubious authority. The 700 figure must be regarded with skepticism, but the principle probably holds true: a lot of money could be made by selling benefit tickets above face value. 40. For this phrase and practice, see Zachary Baggs, Advertisement Concerning the Poor Actors (London, 1709). For a documentary example of the practice, see the Private accounts of a Lady 17361765, Northamptonshire Record Office ASR 103. The Lady was a Mrs. Dummer, whose husband gave her sums from 125 to more than 200 a year for my own expences. For more than fifteen years from 22 February 1748 she records a guinea to Mrs Clive at the time of her benefit.


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terminated competition, the managers reduced the total to an average of four per year for the rest of the decade, and new plays remained difficult to get produced until the actors rebellion and the re-establishment of a second company in 1695. Almost no one but insiders managed to get plays staged by the United Company, and even veteran professional playwrights such as Dryden and Shadwell did not average anything like a play per year, which might have supplied a modest but decent living.41 The actual benefit receipts known after 1714 for Lincolns Inn Fields (Covent Garden from 1732) show an average take for playwrights of 43 (with a range of zero to 120) from 1714 to 1721. The average is 154 for 172128, largely because of the 491 earned by Fenton for Mariamne and the 494 by Gay for The Beggars Opera (the most successful play of its era). Without those special cases, the average falls to 109, though only four plays earned their authors less than 50. For the years 172837 the average drops to 79 (with a range from 6 to 315).42 (Drury Lane was a far more prosperous theater until the mid-1720s, and playwrights may have done substantially better there.) These are not such meager amounts, but they suggest that only on the rarest occasions did playwrights benefits attract genuinely full housesa pattern that continues right through to the end of the eighteenth century. Insofar as fragmentary figures may be relied upon, we may deduce that the theaters tended to run at roughly 50 to 60 percent of capacity and could do so profitably at that level. By implication, we may guess that the take for a lot of late-seventeenth-century playwrights was well under the 70 or 75 that a full house would have brought them. A 50-benefit per annum would have provided subsistence for a Carolean playwright, though one could not have dressed for appearances at court or maintained a family with any social dignity on such a sum. We must ask, however, how many playwrights actually managed to get plays written and produced with such regularity. Aphra Behn (20 plays), John Crowne (19), John Dryden (26), Thomas Durfey (26), Nathaniel Lee (13), Thomas Otway (9), Edward Ravenscroft (12), Elkanah Settle (13), Thomas Shadwell (20), and Nahum Tate (8) probably could have contrived to live for substantial periods on their earnings from playwriting. Behn and Otway led notoriously hardscrabble existences. Settle spent thirty years in poverty after he fell out of favor with the public about 1680.43 Shadwells actress wife must have earned a substantial income in the 1670s, but Shadwell himself was debarred from play production between 1681 and 1688 because of his Whig politics. Dryden returned to playwriting only after 1688, when he lost his lucrative posts as Poet Laureate and Historiographer Royal (and complained bitterly about digging in exhausted mines). Durfey was a songwriter. Lee spent much of the 1680s in a madhouse, but would probably have had a hard time supporting himself as a playwright after the union of the two acting compa41. For a convenient list of all plays at issue, see Alfred Harbage, Annals of English Drama, 9751700, rev. S. Schoenbaum, 3d ed. Sylvia Stoler Wagonheim (London, 1989). 42. Milhous and Hume, Playwrights Remuneration, 1015, 46. 43. Settle earned what he could from City Pageants, but seems to have got only a pittance in comparison with playwriting. He received 2 3s. 6d. in 1692 and 11 1s. 6d. in 1703; see Frank C. Brown, Elkanah Settle (Chicago, 1910), 122, 125.

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nies. Nonetheless, we may guess that these people all obtained most of their living from playwriting for periods of nearly a decade to upwards of twenty-five years. Dramatists did not enjoy a safe income, but could scrounge an insecure livelihood of sorts from the theater, given talent, industry, and a bit of luck. The situation changed radically for the worse after the union of 1682 and basically stayed bad. The new union engineered by Vanbrugh in 1708 terminated all serious competition until John Rich reopened a second theater in 1714, but Richs company barely stayed afloat for the first decade of its existence. The astounding sixtytwo-night run of The Beggars Opera in 1728 triggered a theatrical boom, with as many as four companies competing actively in London in the 1730s, but this state of affairs was abruptly terminated by the Licensing Act of 1737. Some 430 new plays were staged by known writers between 1700 and 1750 (including afterpieces), but only two playwrights got a play staged annually for anything like a decadeSusanna Centlivre (15 plays from 1700 to 1718) and Henry Fielding (18 playsincluding afterpieces and fringe productionsin eight seasons prior to the Licensing Act). Fielding did make a living out of playwriting in the 1730s (partly at Drury Lane, but operating his own pick-up company at the Little Haymarket in 1730 and 1731 and again in 1736 and 1737). Centlivres husband held a position as cook in the royal household at 60 per annum. Farquhar wrung a bare living out of plays, doing hackwork as well and joining the army in mid-career. Charles Johnson had sixteen plays staged over a thirty-year period, but many of them were dismal flopsand he took to running a tavern in Covent Garden. James Miller had half a dozen plays staged in the thirties, but he was both a clergyman and a journalistic pamphleteer. A number of Carolean playwrights appear to have been able to earn a living from their trade for substantial stretches of time, but between 1700 and 1750 only two of 150 professionally produced playwrights had enough plays staged to support themselves over a period of several years. This is a very important conclusion, because it flatly contradicts long-codified assumptions. J. W. Saunders, for example, quite rightly says that before 1642 and after 1660 the theatre provided the first fruitful soil in which a profession of letters took root. This largely ceased to be true after the 1682 union, and when Saunders says of the mid-eighteenth century that the theatre was prosperous enough to provide a living wage, and more, for the writers who were prepared to write to formula, he is simply wrong.44 In the first half of the eighteenth century many writers supplemented their incomes and a few enjoyed theatrical earnings of 300 and more from single plays, but this is not the same thing as earning a living. Seventy-one of the professionally produced playwrights wrote only a single staged play, and twentyfive more wrote only two. Only twelve writers among a hundred and fifty wrote more than six plays in the half-century at issue. The playwrights who consistently profited the most were (not coincidentally) managersColley Cibber in the period under consideration, and later David Garrick. After the 1682 theatrical union, playwriting became an occasional and largely amateur enterprise and stayed that way until the 1780s.
44. J. W. Saunders, The Profession of English Letters (London, 1964), esp. 68 and 113.


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Contrariwise, what of actors? Unlike playwrights, they were unquestionably both professional and dependent upon the theater for their livelihood. Information about payment of actors prior to 1642 is extremely sketchy, but it suggests that in a good season in the mid-1630s a sharer in the Kings Men may have earned as much as 180, while a principal at the Red Bull probably got something closer to 40. Hirelings appear to have received between 5s. and 10s. per week during the season (about thirty weeks) or between 7 10s. and 15 per annumsums that presumably needed to be supplemented by strolling during the summers or by non-theatrical work.45 After 1660 the system of actor-sharers and hirelings continued in both companies. The United Companys salary scale ran in steps from 10s. per week (1s. 8d. per acting day) to 25s., 40s., 50s., and 60s. (the last sum being deemed roughly equivalent to a threequarter acting share).46 Under this system, shareholders incomes fluctuated with company profit, which might be advantageousor not. In 168283 (a really good season), a three-quarter shareholder got 126 15s. and a 60s. salaried actor 115 10s. In 168485 (a bad season, interrupted by mourning for Charles II), the same shareholder received only 52 10s., while the hireling got 90. At the bottom end of the scale, the 10s. hireling would have had 19 5s. in the former season, 15 in the latter. Anyone at 40s. (2) per week certainly received a living wage from the roughly thirty weeks of the theater season. At the very top of the scale and beyond, Thomas Betterton earned 461 in 168283, though 61 was for management and 231 represented his dividends as holder of three building-proprietors shares in the Dorset Garden Theatre. Figures for the Kings and Dukes companies are much less complete, but we do now know that in the mid-seventies each of the twenty acting shares in the Dukes Company was worth 50 to 60 per annum.47 A single-share member received that sum; a three-quarter shareholder proportionately less. Betterton, who held 3.25 shares, received 169 for acting in 167576 (plus, of course, his managerial and theater-rent income). Between 1687 and 1693 outside investors (adventurers) took control of the United Company and tried to improve profits by squeezing actors salaries and perquisites. Sharing actors profits were so poor that the sharers chose to go on salary, but salaries were systematically shortpaid. One result was the actors rebellion of 1694, which led to the re-establishment of a severely undercapitalized second company as an actor-cooperative at Lincolns Inn Fields.48 Another resultone whose impact affected the theater for more than a centurywas the inauguration of an actor-benefit system that permitted favored actors to top up unsatisfactory or shortpaid salaries by taking the profits of a performance for which they flogged tickets to friends and admirers. Except for rare free benefits, management was guaranteed its expenses, and the actor might make a great deal of money. If unlucky, the beneficiary could wind up
45. See Gerald Eades Bentley, The Profession of Player in Shakespeares Time 15901642 (Princeton, N.J., 1984), 5556, 10612. 46. This discussion is deeply indebted to Judith Milhous, United Company Finances, 16821692, Theatre Research International 7 (198182): 3753. 47. See Judith Milhous, The Dukes Companys Profits, 16751677, Theatre Notebook 32 (1978): 7688. 48. See Judith Milhous, Thomas Betterton and the Management of Lincolns Inn Fields, 16951708 (Carbondale, Ill., 1979).

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owing management money.49 Figures published in 1709 by Zachary Baggs, the Drury Lane treasurer, show that Robert Wilks earned 168 (including a fee for management) and added 90 from his benefit; Richard Estcourt had a 5 per week salary from which he earned 112 plus 51 from his benefit; Colley Cibber the same, plus 51 from a benefit; Anne Oldfield got 4 per week plus perquisites, making 70 in just fourteen weeks, plus 62 from her benefit.50 These are very decent incomes if paid in full, something the proprietor, Christopher Rich, fiercely resisted doing. His attempt to enforce a profit-sharing tax on actors benefits led to an explosion that got him shut down for five years.51 The re-establishment of a second company in 1714 led to the employment of more actors, but did little to improve their conditions of employment. Initial relations between Lincolns Inn Fields and Drury Lane were quite hostile, but by the early 1720s the two managements had decided to cooperate rather than compete. In consequence, the managers signed a secret cartel agreement, the essence of which was that neither company could hire a performer who had worked at the other without a written discharge from the prior employer.52 Some salaries were actually reduced in the course of the 1720s, and performers were left with virtually no choice but to accept what they were offered or leave for Dublin. The unlicensed companies and nonce troupes that came into being after the theatrical boom triggered by The Beggars Opera in 1728 have left almost no records behind them, but with the exception of Goodmans Fields we may safely assume that they did not provide a livelihood for their members. Fragmentary records from a lawsuit concerning a fringe opera and theater venture in 173233 show daily receipts from 10 5s. to 51 18s. for opera in English, and 2 12s. to 22 9s. for plays.53 For the latter, sixteen men and women were paid a total of 4 9s. 6d. for each performancenot a living wage unless paid virtually year-round. Occasionally, a fringe troupe scored a hit at the Little Haymarket (as Fielding did on four notable occasions), but usually such productions ran only a few nights and disappeared. Had the Licensing Act not been imposed, fringe theaters might eventually have offered alternative venues and a living wage to performers, but they never did so in the eighteenth century. Salaries are mostly unknown for Drury Lane in the 1730s, and they were probably poor, since the company fell into disarray, provoking the rebellion that led to the extended walkout of 1733 and the importation of strollers as strikebreakers.54

49. See Robert D. Hume, The Origins of the Actor Benefit in London, Theatre Research International 9 (1984): 99111. 50. Baggs, Advertisement Concerning the Poor Actors. This season was shortened by almost a third by mourning for Prince George and an order of silencemaking salary totals far lower than normal. 51. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, The Silencing of Drury Lane in 1709, Theatre Journal 32 (1980): 42747. 52. The cartel agreement was long known by rumor, but its provisions were not printed and analyzed until the 1980s. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, The London Theatre Cartel of the 1720s: British Library Additional Charters 9306 and 9308, Theatre Survey 26 (1985): 2137. 53. The National Archives, E 112/1193, no. 1527. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, J. F. Lampe and English Opera at the Little Haymarket in 17323, Music and Letters 78 (1997): 50231. 54. See Robert D. Hume, Henry Fielding and the London Theatre, 17281737 (Oxford, 1988), 15564.


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We do, however, possess nearly complete salary information for Covent Garden in 173536.55 Principals earned 200 to 300 per annum in salary. Some forty members of the company earned from 1s. 6d. to 8s. 4d. per diem (but almost all of them 5s. or less). Seventeen people earned a per diem stipend ranging from 10s. to about 30s. (or perhaps a little higher). Benefit profits for privileged members ran from deficits to above 100, but most fell in the vicinity of 50 or 60. Some forty house servants earned between 1s. and 5s. per night, though only four earned more than 2s. The treasurer, an important and responsible part of the administration, received 6s. 8d., or 2 per week during the seasonabout 60 per annum. By a factor of two, the highest performers salary was paid by John Rich to himself (as Harlequin in pantomimes) a stunning 3 6s. 6d. per diem or 20 per week. Over a full thirty-week season that would amount to 600, and of course as principal owner he received most of the companys annual profit as well. Any good Marxist (or even a wobbly one) must rejoice in the evil example of the long-eighteenth-century London theater. Those who own the means of production profit greatly at the expense of their unlucky employees. To raise capital to finance buildings and operations, Davenant sold off about half the stock in the Dukes Company in the 1660s, while Killigrew had to make similar if more complicated arrangements for the Kings Company.56 Actors retained managerial control throughout most of the 1670s and 1680s, but Christopher Richs open assumption of power in 1693 totally altered the operational nature of London theater. If the patent duopoly were enforced (as ultimately it was until the nineteenth century), then almost unlimited power lay in the hands of those who could inherit or buy the patents united in 1682 or who could get a limited term patent from the government (as Steele did in 1715 and others after him). Occasionally actors did succeed in becoming owner/managers (as Wilks, Cibber, and Doggett/Boothand later Garrickdid at Drury Lane), but when this happened they showed no disposition to share the wealth. Drury Lane fell into the hands of the Triumvirs soon after the silencing of Rich in 1709, and from the summer of 1710 the only competition they faced was from a very shaky opera company. In 171213 Wilks, Cibber, and Doggett split a company profit of 4,050 pounds, getting 1,350 each, plus acting salary and benefit (at least 300 more per head) and managerial salary.57 Total income for each this year was probably about 2,000. This was an

55. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, John Richs Covent Garden Account Books for 173536, Theatre Survey 31 (1990): 200241. I remark in passing that failure to analyze the nearly one hundred extant account books seriously distorts our understanding of the entertainments offered by those theaters. For more than a generation, dance offerings consumed 20 to 25 percent of the total performer budget at John Richs theaters; see Judith Milhous, The Economics of Theatrical Dance in Eighteenth-Century London, Theatre Journal 55 (2003): 481508. 56. See Leslie Hotson, The Commonwealth and Restoration Stage (Cambridge, Mass., 1928), chaps. 5 and 6. On the Kings Companys rather entangled ownership arrangements (especially as regarded its theater), see Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, Charles Killigrews Abstract of Title to the Playhouse: British Library Add. MS. 20,726, fols. 114, Theatre History Studies 6 (1986): 5771. 57. Unknown at this date, but 1 13s. 4d. per diem in 1722, which is 10 per week or upwards of another 300 for the season; see Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, Memos to the Treasurer at Drury Lane, 17151730, Theatre Notebook 45 (1991): 1630 at 22.

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exceptionally good season, but even in 171516 (a poor one, with renewed competition), each Triumvir must have taken home about 1,000.58 Multiply these figures by one hundred and you get a very decent annual income in present-day terms; multiply by two or three hundred and you arrive at a fairly spectacular modern equivalent always remembering too that there was no income tax. Between 1660 and 1740 the London theaters were increasingly operated for the benefit of their proprietors, not for the advantage of playwrights or performers. A playwright earned nothing from his or her play after its first week (or at best, two), even if it coined money for the company that staged it and stayed in the repertory for decades. The take from an authors benefit(s) was utterly unpredictable and could range from nothing to more than 100 in the seventeenth century and as high as nearly 500 by the 1720s. Upper-end rewards were, however, a hundred-to-one shot. The top four or five performers in a theater company could expect to make fairly good money (with a prosperous benefit, 200 to 300 or more by the 1720s and 1730s), but mid-rank performers were lucky to collect much more than 100 even toward the end of this period, while bottom-enders and house servants were working for artisan wages, not paid year-round. The benefit system gave promise of windfall profits that were rarely achieved. A helpful view of the economics of the London theater about 1703 may be derived from the Company Plan drawn up by Vanbrugh when he was hoping to effect a new union and operate a combined theater/opera company as a monopoly under his ownership in the Haymarket Theatre that he was building.59 He intended to pay salaries in full, and hence made no provision for actor benefits. Six senior actors and actresses were penciled in at 120 to 150 per annum (with Betterton getting an extra 50 to teach) and others at various levels from 100 down to 30. Seven dancers were to get salaries from 20 to 60 (with another 250 to be divided among them on a perperformance basis). As music director the distinguished composer John Eccles was to have a 40 salary, and twenty orchestral musicians were to get 1 per week (which Eccles would presumably have collected as well).60 Six singers were penciled in at a total of 150 (plus 200 allocated for when they sing). The projected annual budget for 180 performance days was 9,000 (or 50 per diem). Vanbrugh probably got his figures from Betterton (a vastly experienced manager), and they are highly realistic. The United Company had grossed an average of some 47 per diem from 1682 to 1692. Vanbrugh planned a fancier, multi-media company and expected to exploit a

58. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, Profits at Drury Lane, 17131716, Theatre Research International 14 (1989): 24155. 59. The plan survives in the National Archives LC 7/3, fols. 16162. 60. The musicians undoubtedly supplemented their theater salaries from teaching and concerts, but what they earned from these sources is very thinly documented in this period. Dr. Burney reports that he received 5s. for each performance as a supernumerary member of the Drury Lane orchestra in the 1740s (as were others, much my seniors); Memoirs of Dr. Charles Burney, 17261769, ed. Slava Klima, Garry Bowers, and Kerry S. Grant (Lincoln, Neb., 1988), 45. There is no imaginable way to calculate what portion of the musicians annual income such payments constituted.


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well-managed monopoly. Known receipt totals for Drury Lane a decade later suggest that Vanbrugh might reasonably have hoped to pocket 3,000 a year if he had been able to absorb the rival company and operate without competition. His scheme was never realized, but in conception it is very much in line with other managements of this period. Theaters were not designed to benefit playwrights, performers, or the national culture, but rather to fill the pockets of the entrepreneurs who built and managed them. Earning a Living from Books: Authors and Publishers Three issues are fundamental to comprehension of the difficulties of making a living as an author of books. Two are well known in book-history circles, the third less so. The first is that because the royalty system was virtually unknown, authors almost always sold the perpetual rights to their work to publishers for a single cash payment up front.61 The second is that print runs were small, which sharply limited the sums publishers were willing to risk in buying manuscripts. In the period at issue, most editions appear to have run between 500 and 1,500 copies. Even in the middle and later eighteenth century, the numbers remain low. Strahan was a major printer, but 97 percent of the 514 books he printed between 1738 and 1785 were issued in editions of no more than 2,000 copies.62 The third point is that the price per copy had to be kept low on most books, or they would have found very few buyers. Overall receipts were even lower than they might seem, since publishers gave other booksellers a trade discount of 15 to 20 percent, making the net on a 1 book 16 to 17s.63 A few price statistics may be helpful. In Easter and Trinity terms 1670, 236 books were advertised in the Term Catalogues. Of these, 196 cost less than 4s. and 139 cost no more than 2s. Only seven were offered at 1 or more. The most expensive were 2 10s. and 3law books and a book of maps. The most common price by far was 1s. The cheapest titles listed went for 6d. (25 of them), though large numbers of one- and
61. Other arrangements were sometimes made. Authors sometimes accepted (or bought at a discount) a substantial number of copies, which they were then free to sell for whatever they could get. To judge from the contracts preserved in the Upcott Collection (discussed below), this was not very common, but it probably proved quite profitable for some writers. For particulars of one such case, see R. B. McKerrow, A Publishing Agreement of the late Seventeenth Century, The Library, 4th ser., 13 (1933): 18487. For a learned Latin theological work to be sold at 1, the author was given 25 free copies and the right to buy 100 copies at 15s. each (which if resold to friends at list price would gain him 25). Alternatively, he could buy any number up to 100 copies at 16s. each, which lessened his risk but also his putative profit. 62. See Patricia Hernlund, William Strahans Ledgers: Standard Charges for Printing, 17381785, Studies in Bibliography 20 (1967): 89111 at 104. 63. For background in this realm I am drawing generally on several sources, notably D. F. McKenzie, The Cambridge University Press, 16961712: A Bibliographical Study, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1966); John Feather, A History of British Publishing (London, 1988); The Bowyer Ledgers, ed. Keith Maslen and John Lancaster (London, 1991); and John Barnard and D. F. McKenzie, eds., The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol. 4 (Cambridge, 2002). On changes in publishing at the start of our period, see John Barnard, London Publishing, 16401660, Book History 4 (2001): 116. For vivid documentation of the impact of prices on sales in a later period, see St. Clair, Reading Nation, esp. chap. 11.

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two-penny publications were being issued.64 More expensive books could be had (many of them imported), but they were probably not worth advertising to the general public. For comparison, let us analyze the parallel Term Catalogue lists in 1709 at the time of the publication of Tonsons Rowe Shakespeare in six octavo volumes. Of 152 titles advertised, 104 cost 2s. or less, of which 82 (fully half ) cost no more than 1s. The most common price was 6d. (40 titles) and 58 of the advertised works cost that sum or less. In 1709, relatively few books were priced above 2s. A smattering of titles (four to nine per price bracket) were offered at 3s., 3/6, 4s., 4/6, and 5s. I would judge that 6s. represented a normal top price for a book for which substantial sales were anticipated. Fourteen were offered at this price (five of them reprints). One was priced at 7/6, four at 12s., one at 15s., and one at 30s.which is a dizzying pound and a half. The last two were Tonsons Virgil and Shakespeare editions, and in this company they stand out like sore thumbs. Far from making Shakespeare cheap and widely available, as has long been claimed, Tonsons 1709 edition (and his 1714 duodecimo reprint to follow) were expensive volumes aimed at a premium market.65 Let us address the issue of what authors actually earned from their books. We know, of course, that Dryden got 1,200 for his translation of Virgil, and that Pope made something in the vicinity of 10,000 from his Homer. Prior collected a munificent 4,000 guineas from the subscribers to his 1718 Poems (though what he actually netted is not clear to me). Swift received 200 for Gullivers Travels (a price negotiated by the canny Pope), and Fielding made 700 from Tom Jones and 1,000 from Amelia.66 These are, however, among the most famous writers of their times, and the figures for Dryden, Pope, and Prior reflect subscription sets flogged hard by writers with extraordinary social connections.67 The rates for Fielding reflect not only his

64. On the booming chapbook industry of the late seventeenth century, see Margaret Spuffords very helpful Small Books and Pleasant Histories: Popular Fiction and Its Readership in SeventeenthCentury England (London, 1981). On a mid-seventeenth-century attempt to produce relatively inexpensive cultural books, see Paulina Kewes, Give Me the Sociable Pocket-Books. . .: Humphrey Moseleys Serial Publication of Octavo Play Collections, Publishing History 38 (1995): 521. 65. For detailed analysis, see Don-John Dugas and Robert D. Hume, The Dissemination of Shakespeare in 1714, Studies in Bibliography, forthcoming. 66. These figures are among those reported by Saunders, Profession of English Letters, 13140, and repeated by later scholars. We should note that Millar was badly burned by the terms he gave Fielding for Amelia. For a masterly account of Popes extraordinary earnings, see David Foxon, Pope and the Early-Eighteenth-Century Book Trade, rev. James McLaverty (Oxford, 1991), chaps. 12. 67. Much sympathy has been lavished on Milton, who received 10 for the first edition of Paradise Lost in 1667 (with another 5 due for each of two further impressions, if they appeared and sold out). As Peter Lindenbaum has pointed out, however, these were not unreasonable terms for the time; see Miltons Contract, in Martha Woodmansee and Peter Jaszi, eds., The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature (Durham, N.C., 1994), 17590. The poem was big and expensive, the poet obscure and disreputable. We should also remember, as Lindenbaum observes in another version of Miltons Contract, that Milton had enough inherited wealth not to need to make a living from his pen; The Poet in the Marketplace: Milton and Samuel Simmons, in P. G. Stanwood, ed., Of Poetry and Politics: New Essays on Milton and His World (Binghamton, N.Y., 1995), 24962 at 262.


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celebrity but also the growing mid-century book market.68 What of ordinary earnings? Fortunately, we have two sources, both underexploited, that give us many specifics. One is the Lintot notebook published by John Nichols in 1814 that lists roughly 180 copyright payments to authors (plus 25 to Pope) for the period 170131.69 The other is the famous Upcott Collection (British Library, Add. MSS. 38,72830), which includes full texts of more than 80 author-publisher agreements for the first half of the eighteenth century. Both have often been cited, but neither (so far as I can determine) has ever been systematically analyzed.70 Extracting the figures produces interesting results, though we must remember that in the case of Lintot we are dealing with books issued by a single publisher (and books selected on an unknown basis), and in the case of the Upcott Collection we have a seemingly random set of agreements deriving from a relatively small number of publishers. How representative are these surviving remnants? I would not care to venture even a guessbut actual figures in numerous cases are better than pure speculation. Bernard Lintot was a publisher who produced quite a few upper-end books Popes Homer, for example. Excluding payments to Pope (which total more than 4,200) and some payments for correcting and editing, Lintot records payment of roughly 3,026 to authors for 149 books. This amounts to about 20 per book, including large ones, small ones, and a few translations. If we subtract nine books for which exceptionally high prices were paid (for example, 252 for Fiddess Body of Divinity, 105 for Jacobs Accomplished Conveyancer), then Lintot paid about 2,030 for the remaining 140 books, or about 14 10s. each. Of these, the author received between 5 and 10 15s. in fifty-seven instances, and less than 5 in thirty-one. We should not sneer at a 5 payment, but neither should we fail to distinguish between a meaningful sum of money (which 5 was) and a livelihood (which it was not, even in 1700). If we accept Samuel Johnsons bare-bones estimate of 30 per annum for subsistence, then 5 amounts to two months food and shelter. (If we look to Pepys, it represents a dinner party.) Relatively few of the Lintot items are pamphlets and occasional pieces. Marjorie Plant estimates that 4 or 5 was a standard fee for purchase of copyright early in the eighteenth century, and given the large number of small, cheap books that were issued, such a figure does not seem implausible.71 What do we learn from a comparison with the Upcott materials? From the first three decades of the eighteenth century, agreements for twenty-three original books survive in that collection, for which the publishers paid authors some 678 for copy-

68. For a still useful overview of the earnings of name writers, see Harry Ransom, The Rewards of Authorship in the Eighteenth Century, University of Texas Studies in English 18 (1938): 4766. 69. John Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, 9 vols. (London, 181215), 8:293304. I say roughly because there are cases in which no sum is listed, or a complicated deal does not reduce satisfactorily to a single figure. 70. The Upcott Collection runs into the early nineteenth century. Judith Milhous and I hope soon to publish an analysis of the whole run of its contracts. 71. Marjorie Plant, The English Book Trade: An Economic History of the Making and Sale of Books (1939; 3d ed., London, 1974), 76.

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right (an average of about 29 each). Another eleven agreements for translations of various sorts total about 100, or some 9 each. Combining the two categories, the thirty-four books brought about 23 on average. If we look to the 1730s, we find that twenty-eight original books brought about 35 each, though the figure for eighteen books in the 1740s falls back to 26. Looking at the contents of the Upcott Collection for the whole of the period 170149, the figures are about 31 for original books, or about 27 if we include translations in the calculation. Money could of course be earned from hackwork. Upcott includes a small number of payments for revisions, proofreading, and indexing. These run from one to ten guineas. Both sources include books of many kindspoems, plays, history, translations from the classics, mathematical and scientific treatises, how-to-learn foreign language primers, geography, philosophy, history, religion, and law books. We may ask how payments for elite-culture books compare to those in other realms. The answer is that on average they so do quite favorably. Of the books reported by Lintot I would classify fifty-four as broadly cultural (counting both originals and translations).72 Their copyrights brought some 1,379, or about 25 per book. I would classify some fortytwo books from the Upcott Collection as cultural in this period. They brought 1,401, or some 33 per book. The range was wide. Dr. Sewell received 1 1s. 6d. for his pamphlet of Observations on the Tragedy of Jane Shore (Lintot), whereas James Moore Smythe somehow blandished Lintot out of 105 for his mildly successful comedy The Rival Modes (1727). Given the considerable theatrical success of Jane Shore and Jane Grey, we cannot be astonished that Rowe received 50 15s. and 75 5s. for them, respectively; but how could Lintot have imagined that Captain Killigrews vapid Chit-Chat (1718) was worth the 84 he paid for it?73 Until the 1740s, plays were unquestionably an authors best hope for making a substantial amount of money from literary workunless he or she were sufficiently connected and celebrated to make a killing out of subscription publication. Let us therefore consider the basic economics of play publication. The standard retail price was 1s. in the late seventeenth century, a sum that rose to 1s. 6d. for long plays and especially attractive ones. If we assume that as many as 1,500 copies were printed and could be sold at 1s., then after discounts to booksellers the publisher would probably gross something like 60. To judge from extant records, the cost of typesetting, paper, ink, warehousing, and overheads would have come to upwards of half this sum, leaving no more than 30 to 40 to be divided between the author (paid cash up front) and the publisher (who paid all costs and assumed all risks).74 A more likely print run was 500,
72. Under this heading I have counted plays, poems, literary criticism, history, and philosophy. 73. Timing could be crucial for the author of a play. Should one sell before the premiere for fear of failure? Alternatively, should one wait and hope for theatrical triumph? Killigrew profited considerably by selling before the premiere. Contrariwise, Lillo would probably have received precious little for The London Merchant in 1731, but when he finally sold copyright in 1735 the price was a munificent 105. 74. Type was expensive, and so was paper. In 1660 imported paper was taxed at 1s. per pound. Legislation in the 1690s (8 and 9 William c. 7) raised the duty on paper and books to 25 percent of the value; see Plant, English Book Trade, 200.


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with a corresponding reduction in costs and net. Small wonder that Farquhar received 16 2s. 6d. for the copyright of The Recruiting Officer in 1706. The 30 he got for The Beaux Stratagem the next year is evidence of Lintots faith in its sales appeal. Of course if a play failed to sell as anticipated the publisher could be significantly out of pocket, and if it sold slowly he might not see his money back for years. Publishers often chose to split the copyright two or more ways, which reduced both initial investment and potential profitsbut also greatly reduced risk. A publisher might hope, of course, for lucrative reprints (on which the author was normally owed nothing). Even bad plays with poor sales might have some value as part of a collected edition (Steeles The Lying Lover is an example). Copyright of all sorts of books was sold and resold among publishers, and split into tiny shares and resold yet again decade after decade.75 With the price at 1s. 6d., the potential gross from the first edition went up to about 90, with something on the order of 50 as profit. In a few extraordinary instances in the first half of the eighteenth century, publishers paid as much as 105 for plays (Cibbers The Non-Juror is one instance). Assuming the 1s. 6d. price and 15d. receipts per copy (after trade discounts to booksellers), the publisher would have to figure on selling about 1,680 copies just to cover the payment to the author. Upwards of 700 more sales would be required to meet costs, so the publisher could not hope to make anything until about 2,400 copies had been sold.76 With this background in mind, we may consider what is known of the sale of copyright of playswhich is a great deal between 1700 and 1740.77 Anecdotal evidence suggests that 10 was considered a good price for a play in the reign of Charles II. We know that Dryden, the foremost writer of his time, got 20 for Troilus and Cressida in 1679 and 30 guineas for Cleomenes in 1692. For the years 17001740, we have precise copyright sale prices for an astonishing eighty-three plays. Prices for mainpieces in the early years of the century range from a dismal 3 10s. for Elkanah Settles The City Ramble (1711) to 107 10s. for Addisons Cato (1713), a major theatrical triumph. Susanna Centlivre got 10 for The Busie Body in 1709. At this time 20 was a good price for a play, and 30 an excellent one; 50 was extremely unusual. The average was about 22 (ignoring the aberration of Cato). Between 1714 and 1737 the average received for forty-seven mainpieces was 52, for ten afterpieces just 8. Clearly the scale went up,
75. Numerous examples are to be found in volume 3 of the Upcott Collection, British Library, Add. MS. 38,730. For analysis of such publisher-to-publisher deals, see Terry Belanger, Booksellers Sales of Copyright: Aspects of the London Book Trade 17181768 (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1970); and Booksellers Trade Sales, 17181768, The Library, 5th ser., 30 (1975): 281302. 76. By way of comparison, we may turn to K. I. D. Maslens classic reconsideration of the claim that the sensational success of Robinson Crusoe made a 1,000 profit for its publisher; see Edition Quantities for Robinson Crusoe, 1719, The Library, 5th ser., 24 (1969): 14550. Maslen demonstrates that as many as 6,000 copies were sold at a very stiff 5s. price. His figures imply that printing, paper, and standard binding must have cost about 665 against total possible receipts of about 1,200. This does not allow for purchase of Defoes right in his copy, advertising, or overheads. If we assume that Defoe received 50100 (and less is possible), we may deduce that the publishers profit was no more than 400500. Maslen provides figures to show that normal edition quantities for novels actually fell from 1,000 before 1750 to 750 and even 500 in the second half of the century. 77. The following comments are digested from Milhous and Hume, Playwrights Remuneration, esp. 3543 and Appendix VII.

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ranging from as little as 5 guineas for a mainpiece (Lynchs Independent Patriot in 1737) to a ceiling of 105 (though the celebrated Thomas Southerne got a very extraordinary 150 for The Spartan Dame in 1719). That the market for publishing plays improved substantially between the 1670s and the 1720s is obvious. Much less evident until the figures are calculated is that on average playwrights were earning approximately one-third of their income from publication, a far higher proportion than one might expect.78 This continued to be true throughout the eighteenth century. Plays were increasingly profitable to publishers, and some small measure of the gains trickled down to authors. Playwriting sometimes yielded meaningful sums of money (and rare windfalls), but it was not really a viable means of earning a living. Writers lacking a private income or a non-literary profession had, therefore, to seek other ways of making ends meet. Prior to 1700, journalism offered minimal possibilities, and cultural journalism almost none. The appearance of the Tatler in 1709 started to change that. Exactly what Steele earned is, unfortunately, a matter of guesswork. Richmond P. Bond does an excellent job of combining and analyzing relevant figures, but they take us only so far.79 Costs of comparable periodicals appear to have run in the vicinity of 16s. to 1 per thousand copies for printing and paper. The circulation of the Tatler went as high as 3,000 copies (though whether it stayed so high is not known). The cost of distribution is unknown, but must significantly have reduced the net on the 1d. retail price. The gross might have been as high as the 37 Bond calculates. If we estimate 79 for production and half or a third of a penny per copy for distribution, then the net profit would have amounted to anything from 9 to 17 per week. How this was divided between the publisher and Steele we do not know. Neither do we know how much Steele paid Addison and other contributors or who got the money from advertisements. If Bonds figures and my further guesswork are valid, then authors might have earned anything from 4 to 9 per week out of the Tatler, which in the terms we have been contemplating is quite a lot of money. We must not forget that the imposition of stamp duty in August 1712 raised the price of the Spectator by 50 percent and initially at least reduced circulation to less than half the number that was usually Printed before this Tax was laid.80 The big money earned from the Tatler and the Spectator was made from the collected reprints that were issued steadily throughout the century. Tonson and Buckley must have had a shrewd idea of the potentialities for profit: they paid Addison and Steele a startling 575 each for outright possession of reprint rights.81 Despite the success of these journals (and that of the Gentlemans Magazine two
78. Ibid., 3940. 79. Richmond P. Bond, The Tatler: The Making of a Literary Journal (Cambridge, Mass., 1971), chap. 2. 80. Quotation from Steele in No. 555. On the impact of the Stamp Act, see The Spectator, ed. Donald F. Bond, 5 vols. (Oxford, 1965), 1:xxvxxvii. Four decades later, Johnson is said to have made 2 guineas for each Rambler essay (4 4s. per week); see Saunders, Profession of English Letters, 142. His figures cannot be right, since the gross receipts amounted to no more than the authors alleged fee and would certainly not have covered printing, paper, distribution, and the publishers cut. 81. Feather, History of British Publishing, 109.


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decades later) periodicals remained relatively few in number and mostly short-lived. Circulation could vary widely. The Craftsman is often said to have had a circulation of 10,000, but early in its life it sold about 700; sales did rise as high as 10,000 by 1730 (possibly higher); fell to around 4,000 by 1735; and were back down to about 700 by 1753, at which time Arthur Murphy was getting a guinea and a half per week as editor.82 Study of Maxteds figures on periodical publication suggests to me that the importance of periodicals to writers livelihoods is basically a post-1750 phenomenon.83 We must also remember that the Tatler and the Spectator were the greatest periodical successes of their century. By way of contrast, we may note that Fielding apparently earned 5s. per essay from the Champion in the later 1730s.84 In the 1740s the Westminster Journal advertised for outside submissions that fill up the whole Space usually allotted to Pieces of that Nature, offering Half a Guinea in payment.85 This figure receives indirect confirmation of a sort in the complaint in the preface of Memoirs of the Society of Grub-Street that the Gentlemans Magazines abridgments of essays from the weekly papers amount to unfair appropriation of material that had cost the newspapers some twenty guineas in Copy-moneythat is, about half a guinea per issue, at least on average.86 Before ending this brief survey of what authors earned from sale of book copyright and journalism, I need to call attention to some complexities in the realms of topicality, contractual possibilities, and secret subsidy. A fine example in all three areas is John Philipss Cyder, published by Tonson in January 1708.87 Philipss poem celebrates the 1707 Union with Scotland and was written as a piece of Tory political propaganda under the patronage of Robert Harley. Tonson (a staunch Whig, but a man with an eye to the main chance) paid a startling 40 for the poem and the contract specifies that if there is a second edition Philips will receive another 10. In addition to this very handsome cash payment, he received one hundred large-paper presentation copies (probably bound in calf ) and two luxury dedication copies bound in Turkey leather. How these copies were deployed and with what advantage to Philips we can only guess, but the financial and sociopolitical benefits were probably considerable. Pellicer speculates (plausibly, I believe) that this amazingly generous contract was funded not by Tonson but by Harley or his allies: Tonson provided a respectable front for a piece of

82. See Lord Bolingbroke, Contributions to the Craftsman, ed. Simon Varey (Oxford, 1982), xiiixiv. 83. Ian Maxted, The London Book Trades, 17751800 (Folkstone, Kent, U.K., 1977), Table 9. 84. See Thomas Lockwood, Fielding and the Licensing Act, Huntington Library Quarterly 50 (1987): 37993. His source is Old England, 3 September 1748. 85. Reprinted in Letters from the Westminster Journal (London, 1747), no. 4 (19 December 1741). I owe this reference and the next to the generosity of Thomas Lockwood. 86. Memoirs of the Society of Grub-Street, 2 vols. (London, 1737), 1:xiii. The writer (Russell?) complains further that by publishing his magazine as a pamphlet, Cave avoided the Stamp-duty, more than 200 of which had been paid by the source journals. At 6d. for a pamphlet of three sheets and a half, Cave gave the public greater quantity and variety than any Book of the kind and price. 87. For this illustration I am indebted to Juan Christian Pellicer, Harleian Georgic from Tonsons Press: The Publication of John Philipss Cyder, 29 January 1708, The Library, 7th ser., 7 (2006): 18598.

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political propaganda. Philips was a distinguished imitator of Virgil in Miltonic blank verse, not a political hack writer. He was, however, apparently a pen available for (discreet) hire. The secret service records for 1705 indicate a payment to him of [o]ne hundred Pounds, as Our Royall Bounty for writing a Poem in Blank Verse, on the Battle of Blenheim.88 What authors gained from their writing was not always the copyright payment alone. The fact remains, however, that just as proprietors made most of the money out of theaters, booksellers were the principal beneficiaries of publication. Ultra-Elite Culture: Opera and Painting Opera and painting provide a sharp contrast to other forms of elite culture. Opera was expensive to produce and expensive to attend. From 1708, it was increasingly aimed at a very small group of potential customers. At times it generated huge cash flows and attracted extravagant patronage, but the beneficiaries were a few principal singers. Early-eighteenth-century opera companies collapsed with monotonous regularity. Opera impresarios may have had high hopes, but they signally failed to exploit their performers. Painting was a solo rather than a group activity, and very hard for an English person to break into, but even at the bottom reaches of the profession, paintings were ferociously expensive. This fact notwithstanding, only a few painters found the profession lucrative. In the late seventeenth century, opera meant semi-opera, done by the regular theater companies in English with spoken dialogue. The Dryden-DavenantShadwell musicalized version of The Tempest (1674) was probably the most popular show of its time. Purcells Prophetess, King Arthur, and Fairy-Queen (169092) were extremely elaborate productions that severely strained the finances of the United Company. The reported costs of the major semi-operas ranged from 800 to 4,000. Since the usual annual receipts of the Dukes and United Companies totaled around 10,000, this represented quite incredible investment in a very small number of extravaganzas.89 Admission prices were apparently doubled at the time of premiere and raised by a shilling for revivals. Semi-operas were a special treat, probably given only a few times each season. Whether they were worth the cost and risk may be questioned, but acting company profits could pay for them and they were performed by the companys usual actors, supplemented with extra singers, dancers, and musicians. The popularity of Italian opera on the Continent and the success of all-sung operas in English mounted at Drury Lane in 1705 and 1706 led Vanbrugh to engineer the union of 1708, which gave him an opera monopoly at the Haymarket. His company went broke in less than four months that spring.90 Principal singers tried

88. The National Archives, T/48/17, fol. 3 (cited by Pellicer). 89. On the scope, nature, and cost of such semi-operas, see Judith Milhous, The Multi-Media Spectacular on the Restoration Stage, Shirley Strum Kenny, ed., British Theatre and the Other Arts, 16601800 (Washington, D.C., 1984), 4166. 90. For extensive documentation and analysis, see Vice Chamberlain Cokes Theatrical Papers, 17061715, ed. Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume (Carbondale, Ill., 1982).


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to demand as much as 700 guineas, and he wound up paying four principals 400 or more each for a total of only twenty-nine or possibly thirty performances. After twenty-three performances Vanbrugh had received 2,943, spent 4,090, and lost 1,147a sum he absolutely could not afford.91 Later companies fared little better. Experience proved that an opera company could perform only twice a week, so forty to fifty performances per season were as many as could be hoped for. Because prices had to be stratospheric, the audience was of necessity ultra elite, so it comprised relatively few people, who came again and again. They tended to get tired of a show after six or eight performances, which necessitated a steady stream of expensive new productions. Vanbrughs successors in opera management decided that the answer was to import superstar castratos, who did attract customers but also demanded unprecedented salaries. Nicolini came to London in 1708. As of 1709 his terms were a guaranteed salary of 800 guineas, plus perquisites and a benefitan astounding figure when compared with the fraction of that sum earned by top actors for four times or more the number of performances.92 Even prices with an 8s. top (double the regular theater price) could not bring income into line with costs. The collapse of the Italian opera company run by Heidegger in 1717 might logically have led to the return of opera to Drury Lane and Lincolns Inn Fields, and to performance in English. The relatively plebian nature of those venues and their patrons, and the presence of George I on the throne, produced a very different result. The Royal Academy of Music was granted a charter by the king in 1719 as a for-profit joint stock company that attracted a pledged capital upwards of 20,000, with a 1,000 per annum subsidy provided by the king himself.93 The venture was conceived at the time of the South Sea Bubble and reflected the unrealistic thinking then prevalent among speculators. With so much money available, the company made no attempt to contain costs. Prices were raised to half a guinea (10s. 6d.) for pit and boxes and to a dizzying 5s. for balcony seats. No account books or daily receipts for the venture survive, but recently discovered papers from the committee of directors give us some financial particulars. The directors imagined that they would have a full house every night, and that they could afford to pay the principal castrato (Senesino) and the leading lady 1,500 apiece, with seven secondary singers at salaries ranging from 300 to 1,100.94 The opera orchestra was expanded from about twenty-one players to thirty-four at salaries that ran from 30 to 100 for a projected sixty-night season. (Further details are not germane to my concerns in this essay.) The cost of the company for the season of 172021 was probably around 14,000, meaning that the venture would have needed to gross some 233 per night for sixty nights to break even (or a totally unrealistic 350 for a forty-night season). Earlier opera companies had a terrible time grossing 125
91. Ibid., 9798. 92. Milhous and Hume, Opera Salaries, 30. 93. The charter was only recently discovered and published. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, The Charter for the Royal Academy of Music, Music and Letters 67 (1986): 5058. 94. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, New Light on Handel and The Royal Academy of Music in 1720, Theatre Journal 35 (1983): 14967.

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per night, and the season rarely extended to forty nights. Management hoped to attract enough subscribers that they would not be dependent on nightly sales. A season subscription, then and later, was normally 20 guineas (21). The Royal Academy sometimes enjoyed packed houses, but inability to keep costs under control led to its bankruptcy and collapse in 1728, massive capitalization notwithstanding. Little is known of the finances of the successor company managed by Handel and Heidegger in the 1730s. It charged similar prices. Chance preservation of box-office reports for a few nights tells us that it had 170 subscribers in 173132 (worth about 89 per night on average), but only 140 in 173233 (about 73 per night), and that for ordinary nights the walk-in trade could bring as little as 54 7s.95 The crux of the problem was the cost of what appealed to the nobility and gentry versus the number of them able and willing to pay what the opera company needed to charge. David Hunter has argued convincingly that in the time of Handel no more than thirteen hundred families in all of England were sufficiently wealthy to be able to afford even one season subscription.96 Some did not live in London and rarely or never went there; some were evidently not so enamored of opera as to be willing to pay 21 a season (let alone more for spouse and children). For 50 one could buy a more than decent coach. Today we might ask whether a couple would rather buy a Honda Civic or have a season subscription to the opera. Those already driving a Rolls Royce (or even a mere Mercedes) might well opt for operaor for race horses, private jets, or African safaris. Italian opera kept dying and getting resuscitated in London during the eighteenth century. Opera was glamorous; the price made it socially exclusive; and it attracted a clientele quite different from that at the other theaters. Huge sums of money flowed into opera companiesand out again. On the Continent, opera was usually mounted in a court theater, heavily subsidized by the local prince or duke. In London, the entrepreneurial model never worked for any length of time. The wonder is that hope sprang eternal in managers breasts: social cachet and the enormous income stream blinded undertakers to the non-viability of the enterprise. In sharp contrast to publishing and theater, opera companies benefited their principal singers, not their proprietors. Painting was a totally different kind of enterprise and an even more exclusive one. Opera could be enjoyed occasionally as a treat by those willing to spend 10s. 6d. for a single ticket (or for 5s. by those prepared to sit among hoi polloi in the gallery). Buying paintings was definitely the privilege of those with substantially more disposable income. Purchasing or commissioning art does take us beyond the realms of
95. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, Box Office Reports for Five Operas Mounted by Handel in London, 17321734, Harvard Library Bulletin 26 (1978): 24566. For a more general account of the venture, see Robert D. Hume, Handel and Opera Management in London in the 1730s, Music and Letters 67 (1986): 34762. 96. David Hunter, Patronizing Handel, Inventing Audiences: The Intersections of Class, Money, Music, and History, Early Music 28 (2000): 3249. Hunters groundbreaking article is one of the few serious attempts at analyzing the impact of economics on culture in this period.


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theater and publishing explored in this essaybut public exhibition of art in the modern sense was a thing of the future. The Royal Academy of Arts was not founded until 1768, and its famous Summer Exhibitions were to evolve from its original function as a school. During the period under consideration here, art had to be bought or privately viewed. This is not the place for an extensive survey of painters fees and incomes, a subject still in need of systematic investigation. Happily, several scholars have reported enough particulars to give us a fairly good idea of the spectrum of prices, which range from steep to mind-boggling.97 In the 1670s Lely charged 60 for a portrait. As of 1703 Kneller was getting 50 for a whole-length, 30 for a three-quarter, and 15 for a bust, but by 1706 he had raised his prices to 60, 30, and 15 with the new kit-cat size at 20. Dahl got 21 10s. for a half-length in 1711. Around 1720 Richardson was charging 20 guineas for a three-quarter and 10 for a bust; by 1730 he had upped his fees to 70 guineas for a whole-length, 40 for a three-quarter, and 20 for a bust. We are talking here of commissioned originals from distinguished artists. In a letter of 23 March 1741 Joseph Highmore wrote to a friend that the price of a Copy is allways half that of an original, adding that he had not painted originals under the rates of 10, 20, and 40 guineas for heads, half lengths, and whole lengths these eighteen years.98 Copies were usually executed mostly or entirely by studio assistants, though Highmore adds, I do every thing myself, which I believe is not true of one painter in England besides [himself]. Pictures resold at auction (whether imported or locally executed) tended to vary widely in price.99 Prices spiraled upward during the eighteenth century. As a beginner in the early 1740s, Reynolds got just 7 for two busts, but by 1761 he was demanding 100 guineas for a whole-length, 50 for a three-quarter, and 20 for a bust. In 1764 his price went up to 150, 70, 50 for a kit-cat, and 30 for a bust. By the later 1770s he had raised his fees to 200 guineas for a whole-length and 50 for a bust. In 1790 he wrote to Sheridan that a whole-length with two children would be 300 guineas. Gainsborough started out in the 1740s charging three to five guineas per bust, but by 1787 was charging 160 guineas for a whole-length, 80 for a three-quarter, and 40 for a head. History paintings tended to be considerably more expensive than portraits. Reynolds reportedly received 1,500 guineas for The Infant Hercules (bought by the Empress of Russia), and his oil sketch for the Nativity of 1779 for the New College window brought him 1,200 guineas from the Duke of Rutland.
97. The figures that follow are drawn except as noted from two valuable modern studies: David Mannings, Notes on Some Eighteenth-Century Portrait Prices in Britain, British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 6 (1983): 18596 (see esp. 187 and 192); and Iain Pears, The Discovery of Painting: The Growth of Interest in the Arts in England, 16601768 (New Haven, Conn., 1988). 98. Letter to James Harris, part of the Malmesbury Collection (9M73) in the Hampshire Record Office. I owe this reference to the kindness of Donald Burrows. 99. See Pearss Table 1 (Discovery of Painting, 21825) for statistics on 545 paintings by 122 painters that fetched more than 40 at auction between 1711 and 1759. Only one of the paintings was by an Englishman.

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Lower-end prices were far less dizzying. Pears reports that Brook (a local painter in Bury) got 8 12s. for three portraits in 1716, and Mrs. Brown (a rare female painter) 8 12s. for two half-lengths and a three-quarter in 1717. Even these sums would have been out of the reach of most of the population, special indulgence or no. Prices outside London and Bath run to a completely different scale: even at mid-century Mannings reports 2 guineas for a head and 6 for a small full-lengththis from the young Romney. More figures for journeymen painters working in London would be good to have, but we get some idea of the possibilities from the wonderfully detailed accounts preserved for Arthur Pond (17011758), printed in full by Louise Lippincott. Pond was a painter, agent, dealer, restorer, collector, and printseller. His income from portraitpainting varied wildly, but was sometimes upwards of 300 per annum and reached 372 in 1749. Over fifteen years his prices drifted higher. In 1734 he was getting 6 guineas for a head in oil; by 1748 he was getting 10. His price for a full-length went from 16 guineas in 1738 to 35 in 1748. Lippincotts Table 6 records his income from painting, costs, profit, and living expensesthe last item often more than his profits.100 Not enough people wanted his portraits, and he maintained the pretentious lifestyle appropriate to a would-be society painter out of his considerable earnings from his other activities. On a couple of occasions his gross annual income exceeded 1,000. We cannot suppose that Pond was typical of anything. He was a successful and highly prosperous man, but not more than a mildly successful painter. In the 1730s, however, he was charging almost half an opera subscription for a single kit-cat crayon head. We get a slightly different sense of the situation if we look at Hogarth, a sensationally successful artist who was both painter and engraver. When Hogarth auctioned his paintings in 1745, Horace Walpole bought a small portrait for only 5 guineas, but Harlot brought 88 4s. and Rake a dazzling 184 16s. Strolling Actresses fetched 26 guineas, Four Times of Day 127 1s., Danae 60 guineas.101 The total proceeds were nearly 500, but Hogarth was not pleased. Back in 173132 the Harlot subscription was over 1500, and by 1735, with the Engravers Act, he was secure and could live off the continuing sale of old prints as well as new subscriptions and topical prints.102 This illustrates the growing potentialities of a less-than-elite market. Back in 1724 at a time when there were no laws protecting the artist, Hogarth had issued his Masquerades and Operas engraving at 1s. and promptly found himself undersold by pirates at 6d. In 1745 his topical engraving of Lovat probably sold upwards of 10,000 at 1s. and earned upwards of 300 in a few weeks (after costs and dealer discounts).103 Hogarth, of

100. Louise Lippincott, Arthur Ponds Journal of Receipts and Expenses, 17341750, Walpole Society, vol. 54 for 1988 (1991): 220333 (a transcript of British Library Add. MS. 23,724 with index); see also her Tables 4 and 7. For a wonderfully helpful analysis of the socio-politics and economics of his career, see Louise Lippincott, Selling Art in Georgian London: The Rise of Arthur Pond (New Haven, Conn., 1983). 101. Figures from Ronald Paulson, Hogarth, rev. ed., 2 vols. (Cambridge, 199192), 2:22938. By way of comparison, note that in the 1730s Sir Robert Walpole paid 320 for a Poussin, 315 for four small Murillos, 500 for a Salvator Rosa, 700 for one Guido and 500 for another, 300 for a Palma Vecchio. 102. Ibid., 45.


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course, represents the pinnacle of success for engravers in his era. If we look to Arthur Ponds career as a printseller, we find steep expenses, limited sales, and slow return on considerable investment.104 Engravings were by no means cheap, but they were a way for artists to go downmarket without undercutting single picture prices. By the middle of the eighteenth century a growing number of potential customers could pay a shilling per print if they chose to.105 Oil paintings, however, remained out of reach for all but the decidedly well-to-doand until the middle of the century they remained very much the province of foreign rather than native-born artists. Patronage Patronageprincipally in the form of subscription publication and government jobsis more important to the economics of cultural production in this period than perpetual lamentations about the absence of patrons might lead us to expect. The picture we get from most literary historians is essentially that presented by Saunders in The Profession of English Letters (see n. 44, above). The gist of it is that after 1660 writers rapidly become professionals who make writing their trade and thereby earn their livings. A substantial number of people evidently did eke out subsistence of a sort, but mostly of a precarious Grub Street kind.106 Authors perpetually grumbled about the parsimony of publishers and the lack of generous patrons, a litany of complaints that tends to distract us from reality. A more accurate picture suggests that a very high proportion of serious writers with serious cultural ambitions did not earn a living by selling their work to the public. Pope, for example, earned quite normal small sums for most of his work (15 here, 30 guineas there). The roughly 10,000 he earned from Homer was the result of the celebrity, social connections, and genteel arm-twisting that enabled him to peddle several hundred subscriptions at a dizzying 5 and 6 guineas each.107 Each of the 575 subscribers to the Iliad was paying a tenth of the average annual income of one of Kings Gentlemen in the Liberal Arts and Sciences. Whether you calculate the 6 guineas paid by each subscriber as a relatively modest 1,260 or a more generous 1,900 in terms of 2005 value, you are looking at a total on the order of 725,000 to 1,000,000 in present-day buying power. This is not a commercial sale: it is a form of patronage bestowed by the nobility and gentry. I emphasize this point be-

103. Ibid. 45, 276. 104. See Lippincott, Selling Art, chap. 7. 105. Single engravings could sell in sufficient numbers to make substantial profits, and engravers were better protected by law than authors as of 1735. One might wonder why there were not many more series of scenes published such as those extant for the popular Flora (1729). The answer seems to be that such series cost about 15s. and hence could not appeal to a mass market; see Judith Milhous, Gravelot and Laguerre: Playing Hob on the Eighteenth-Century English Stage, Theatre Survey 43 (2002): 14875. 106. For two of the best accounts of professional writing in the first half of the eighteenth century, see Pat Rogers, Grub Street: Studies in a Subculture (London, 1972); and Brean S. Hammond, Professional Imaginative Writing in England, 16701740:Hackney for Bread (Oxford, 1997). 107. For detailed analysis of Popes net gains, see Foxon, Pope and the Early-Eighteenth-Century Book Trade, 6163, 99101.

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cause Maynard Mack has suggested that Popes contract with Lintot represents the end of the patronage system, a crucial step toward the authors being able to live by poetry alone.108 Popes Homer was very nicely produced, but like his Shakespeare, it was priced vastly above the level at which it could be sold to the book buying public.109 Luxury subscriptions were one form of patronage; government posts were another. Congreve became a Commissioner for Licensing Hackney Coaches in 1695 at 100 per annum (basically a sinecure); from 1705 to 1714 he was a Commissioner for Wines at 200; and from 1714 he collected more than 700 a year as Secretary for the Island of Jamaica, the beneficiary of a special warrant from the Secretary of State allowing him to conduct the office by deputy.110 Vanbrugh not only became an eminent architect but was also appointed Comptroller of the Queens Works while still young and was given a lucrative job in the College of Heralds in 1704 (which he was able to sell in 1725 for 2,400).111 Jonathan Swift wept and wailed about being stuck in Dublin as Dean of St. Patricks (an English bishopric being what he wanted)but we must not forget that from 1713 he earned a tidy 800 per annum as dean, a sum that made him a very prosperous person indeed, and a writer who never needed to worry about the economics of publishing.112 James Thomson worked as a tutor when young, earned a considerable amount of money from his early poems, and was given a 300 government sinecure in 1733. He lost it in 1737 when his patron died but was given a 100 pension by the Prince of Wales in 1738, and in 1746 Lord Lyttelton got him appointed Surveyor-General of the Leeward Islands, a 300 sinecure.113 Some kinds of employment were not so above-board. For a number of years Harley paid Defoe at least 250 (and more probably 400) per annum for a variety of services. Defoe was not scraping a living out of his poems and pamphlets.114

108. Maynard Mack, Alexander Pope: A Life (New York, 1985), 863. 109. On the earlier history of subscription sales, see Sarah L. C. Clapp, The Beginnings of Subscription Publication in the Seventeenth Century, Modern Philology 29 (1931): 199224, and Subscription Publishers Prior to Jacob Tonson, The Library, 4th ser., 13 (1933): 15883. 110. See John C. Hodges, William Congreve the Man (New York, 1941), 5354, 8187, 9899. Addison did far better out of government appointments, but Hodgess bemoaning the meagreness of Congreves governmental pay before 1714 seems overdone (p. 86). 111. See Kerry Downes, Sir John Vanbrugh: A Biography (London, 1987), 23643; and The Complete Works of Sir John Vanbrugh, ed. Bonamy Dobre and Geoffrey Webb, 4 vols. (Bloomsbury, 192728), 4:169. 112. See Louis A. Landa, Swifts Deanery Income, in James L. Clifford and Louis A. Landa, eds., Pope and His Contemporaries: Essays Presented to George Sherburn (Oxford, 1949), 15970. The fees had to be collected, and they did vary. As early as 1700 Swift was given a three-parish living that brought in 230 per annum (less the generous 57 he paid his curate)a living he kept for life; see David Nokes, Jonathan Swift: A Hypocrite Reversed (Oxford, 1985), 37, 63. Thus Swifts income from the Church of England was upwards of 1,000 per annum. Landa points out that as of 1742 Swifts goods and chattels were valued at 10,000. Swift was notably generous in his charitable contributions, but he died a wealthy man. 113. Old DNB and Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Thomson had reportedly earned 1,000 from publication of his poems by 1729, and he got 457 one-guinea subscribers to the Seasons in 1730among them Pope, Arbuthnot, Bolingbroke, and Edward Young. 114. See J. A. Downie, Secret Service Payments to Daniel Defoe, 17101714, Review of English Studies, n.s. 30 (1979): 43741.


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We tend to think of patronage in terms of commissions, ex gratia payments for dedications or memorial poems, private service, or hospitality (of the sort the Earl of Burlington provided to an inner circle, or that John Gay received from the Queensberrys).115 The anecdote about Dorset giving Dryden a 100 banknote is a fine tale, but strains credulity. Dorset was probably rich enough to make such a gesture, but such anecdotes have a way of improving in the telling.116 We possess almost no specifics about such matters. When Swift writes to Gay that the usuall dedicationfee was 20 guinneas,117 we have no way to guess whether this is pie-in-the-sky or something a relatively celebrated writer might hope for. Even 5 guineas would be a fairly munificent gift from anyone but a genuinely rich patron: 5 guineas is the equivalent of ten top-price tickets to the Royal Opera House today (1,750). We know that poor old Elkanah Settle sent specially bound copies of sycophantic poems to notables in the hopes of cadging a gift, but what sort of return such efforts brought is impossible to say.118 Fake dedications were apparently a dodge of long standing. As early as 1608, Dekker describes in his Lanthorne and Candle-light how falconers would put together a pamphlet of poems and have it printed at their own expense, each copy with a different name at the head of the epistle dedicatory. Flattered recipients reportedly coughed up four or six angels (roughly 23 at the time).119 Dekker adds that some sharpers would buy up any old book, especially a sermon or any other matter of divinity, that lies for waste paper and is clean forgotten, add a new printed Epistle to it and, with an alphabet of letters which they carry about them being able to print any mans name for a dedication on the sudden, travel up and down most shires in England and live by this Hawking. I strongly suspect that the real importance of patronage lay not in lordly gifts but in jobs. A court appointment or a semi-sinecure could provide a living. As an example at the top of the scale, consider G. F. Handel. Much has been written about his economic woes and his need to appeal to the middle class, but he was given a 200 royal pension by Queen Anne as early as 1713 and by the mid-1720s was the recipient of

115. On patronage of all these sorts, see Dustin H. Griffin, Literary Patronage in England, 16501800 (Cambridge, 1996). Figures on individual bounty are in short supply. 116. The source is the not particularly reliable Giles Jacob, The Poetical Register: or, the Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets, 2 vols. (London, 171920), 2:16. James M. Osborn is uncharacteristically uncritical of this anecdote (John Dryden: Some Biographical Facts and Problems, rev. ed. [Gainesville, Fla., 1965], 10); James Anderson Winn quotes Drydens statement of gratitude for a most bountiful Present in his dedication of the Discourse on Satire (1693) while wisely avoiding any speculation as to the sum involved (John Dryden and His World [New Haven, Conn., 1987], 435). 117. The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, ed. Harold Williams, 5 vols. (Oxford, 196365), 3:267. 118. Two exemplars were offered for sale (and reproduced in facsimile in the catalogue) at the John R. B. Brett-Smith sale (Sothebys, 27 May 2004), together with notes by Bishop Percy (a former owner), who recorded that Mr Saml Johnson has told me that Settle latterly had one Standard Elegy & Epithalamion printed off with the Blanks which he filled up with the name of any considerable person who either Died or Married in order to extort Money from them or their Families. Item 527 reproduces the binding of A Funeral Poem on the Earl of Kingston (1713), bound with the Kingston coat of arms and bordered in black. 119. Thomas Dekker, The Wonderful Year. . .and Selected Writings, ed. E. D. Pendry (1967; reprint ed., Cambridge, Mass., 1968), 21520. I owe this reference to the kindness of Gill Spraggs.

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600 per annum in personal payments from the royal family.120 A recent and revealing analysis of his bank accounts shows that he managed to accumulate a great deal of cash, totaling some 17,500 (in addition to considerable personal property) by the time of his death. He died worth about 20,000.121 A surprising number of successful writers and musicians did in fact obtain a substantial part of their livelihood from government postsand premium subscription publication (definitely a form of patronage) was of enormous benefit to some of those who had the connections to make it work for them. This continued to be true for a long time, as Samuel Johnsons energetic efforts on behalf of unfortunate friends subscriptions testifies. Patronage did exist at lower levels as well as grand ones. One might systematically hang around in spots where one could hope to cadge invitations to dinner with someone who maintained a generous table as a form of social sharing (while advertising his own superior status and prestige). Smolletts description in Humphry Clinker of his own Sunday dinners for less fortunate writers probably represents something like the truth for a slightly later period.122 One disadvantage was the need to tip the great mans servants.123 Another instance of non-cash patronage was access to books: in a day before public libraries, many impoverished writers must have relied on booksellers and affluent collectors for the chance to see, use, and sometimes borrow books they could not afford to buy. Royal patronage did exist, Handel being a preeminent example of a beneficiary. Charles IIs regular attendance at the public theaters must have been good for business, however frugal his payments (of which detailed records survive in the Lord Chamberlains papers). James II made two 20 gifts to John Crowne, apparently as significations of his pleasure in seeing Sir Courtly Nice and Dariusthough these payments are unique in the Lord Chamberlains records.124 Recently discovered privy purse records show that George I appears to have attended something like half of the opera performances at the Kings Theatre when he was in London, and he made gifts ranging from 20 to 50 guineas to the principal singers for their benefits.125 His 1,000 annual subsidy for the Royal Academy of Music was only a drop in a very leaky bucket, but it was a conspicuous public gesture. By the 1720s, however, elite culture in London had grown in scale and cost to a point that made any imaginable crown subsidy essentially insignificant.126
120. For a detailed accounting of Handels receipt of these royal pensions throughout the rest of his life, see David Hunter, Royal Patronage of Handel in Britain: The Rewards of Pensions and Office, forthcoming. 121. See Ellen T. Harris, Handel the Investor, Music and Letters 85 (2004): 52175. 122. Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, ed. Lewis M. Knapp, rev. Paul-Gabriel Bouc (Oxford, 1984), 12433 (J. Melfords letter of 10 June). 123. On this practice, see Saussure, A Foreign View of England, 120. Saussure says that the footmen were entitled to 1s. each. 124. The National Archives LC 5/148, pp. 64 and 195. 125. See Donald Burrows and Robert D. Hume, George I, the Haymarket Opera Company and Handels Water Music, Early Music 19 (1991): 32341. 126. For an important account of patronage of several sorts later in the century, see David Stoker, Greek Tragedy with a Happy Ending: The Publication of Robert Potters Translations of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, Studies in Bibliography 46 (1993): 282302. Potter was an impecunious


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Some Tentative Conclusions What conclusions can be drawn from this welter of facts, blanks, puzzles, contradictions, and methodological difficulties? Lindert and Williamson forthrightly warn their readers that all results of their important re-jiggings of King and Massie represent working hypotheses, not firm findings. I must issue a similar reminder here; we have some very solid particular facts and figures, but they are radically incomplete, and how fairly they represent the totality of such data can only be guessed at. I have suggested that consumers of elite culture represented no more than about 5 percent of the population, and that most of the consumption must have come in the top 1.8 percent or so, whose incomes amounted to 250 per annum or more. Prices for books and theater (not to mention opera and painting) put them out of the reach of most of the population. A high proportion of the profits of publishing and theater (excepting opera) went to proprietors, not to authors or performers. Earning 200 per annum was possible for a small minority of principal actors, but would have been exceedingly difficult for all but a few authors unless they had other sources of income. Most participants in the creation of elite culture earned incomes that placed them economically in the bottom half of the middling sort (which is no surprise, but puts perennial complaints in perspective). The theater patent grants of the 1660s (reinforced by the Licensing Act of 1737) destroyed any possibility of competition among multiple theaters, appeal to niche markets, or seeking a broader audience by selling to those of lower income. They also squelched any hope that the performers might be able to work for their own advantage rather than as hirelings. Rights accruing to authors from the 1710 copyright act appear to have been largely nil until the decision in Donaldson v. Becket in 1774 decisively denied publishers claim to the purchase of perpetual copyright.127 Between 1660 and 1740 we can see a gradual shift in elite culture as its focus moves away from court and aristocracy and toward consumers of the middling sort. This is the clich, and there is substantial truth in it. We must, however, understand just how small that middling group remained even at the end of the eighteenth century, let alone at mid-century. Various factors did help expand the pool of potential buyers of culture, but only very slowly. Improvements in technology eventually made cheaper printing feasible. Gradual increases in literacy helped book sales. Growth of urban areas in England led to more printing and more bookshops outside of London: in 1680
parson/schoolmaster who had to beg and borrow money to pay for publishing his impressively subscribed translations because he could find no buyer for the copyright. At the age of 67 he received a 300 prebend appointment at Norwich and a year later a 470 living in the area. For Potter, the reward for publication was eventually preferment in the church, not profits from sales. I suspect that this welldocumented case from the 1760s1780s represents sociopolitical and economic realities that had changed little in the course of the preceding century. 127. On this case, see Mark Rose, Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright (Cambridge, Mass., 1993). Even Donaldson v. Becket did not terminate predatory practices among publishers; see Nancy A. Mace, Charles Rennett and the London Music-Sellers in the 1780s: Testing the Ownership of Reversionary Copyrights, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 129 (2004): 123. Recent scholarship has proved that concern with originality (long held to derive from the 1710 act) actually evolved and became important in the mid- and later seventeenth century; see Paulina Kewes, Authorship and Appropriation: Writing for the Stage in England, 16601710 (Oxford, 1998).

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only four other cities had a population over 10,000.128 The growth of London itself was a boon to booksellers and would have been a greater boon to theaters had they not been artificially stifled by government decree. We should not, however, assume that culture had become middle-class (whatever that means) by 1740. A look at Massies figures for 1759 provides a blunt reminder that the social strata defined by King had changed far less than one might suppose. As late as 1800 male literacy was only about 60 percent, and female literacy about 40 percentand had increased very little in half a century.129 Much basic investigation remains to be done in relation to incomes, social patterns, education, theater, publishing, painting, and music. As more is learned, scholars will probably confirm some of my findings and emend, improve, or disprove others. Freely acknowledging the possibility of future rethinking, I shall offer three basic observations. (1)The nature of the cultural market evolved dramatically between 1660 and 1740. This observation arises not so much from the questions I asked at the outset as from a survey of the evidence reviewed here. The ways in which the production and consumption of culture changed were almost totally unforeseeable in 1660, and because they were gradual and little recognized by commentators at that time we tend not to recognize how drastic they really were. In June of 1660, with Charles II newly restored to the throne, what would the outlook for elite culture have seemed to be? A shrewd and ambitious would-be participant in the production of Carolean culture would almost undoubtedly have started from the assumption that the court would (as always) be the focus and principal prop of genteel culture in all its forms. Many of the important writers would themselves be courtiers like Sidney or Suckling (not writing for filthy lucre), and those who needed to augment their income would seek patronage. Looking to past models, would-be important writers with serious pretentions might be clergymen (Donne), or government functionaries (Milton under Cromwellnot that Milton would have been seen as important in 1660), or seekers of royal patronage (Spenser). Courtiers who had survived the Interregnum period might expect to occupy favored positions (as Davenant and Killigrew promptly managed to do) or to enjoy the favor of the wealthy and mighty (as Cowley did with the Duke of Buckingham). The prompt establishment in 1660 of two theater companies under the names and protection of the king and the Duke of York seemingly signaled the revival of royal and noble patronage for the arts. Writers, musicians, painters, and dancers might reasonably look forward to a new era of fabulous masques lavishly funded by the king and those seeking his favor. Indeed, had Charles II spent on masques, court theater, painting, and music what he devoted to mistresses, the history of elite culture over the next half century (and possibly far longer) might well have been significantly different.
128. James Raven, The Economic Context, in Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, 56882 at 572. 129. See John Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1997), 167; and R. S. Schofield, Dimensions of Illiteracy, 17501850, Explorations in Economic History 10 (1973): 43754. For a useful discussion of literacy, see Hunt, The Middling Sort, esp. 8489.


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In 1660 a sensible observer would almost inevitably have predicted a return to something like the norms of circa 1630, but virtually all assumptions quickly proved false, though realization of their falsity was long resisted. The radical decline of the court as a center for high culture would have seemed inconceivable in 1660, but William III had no interest whatever in such matters and Queen Anne little more. George I patronized opera, but not English-language entertainments or literature. Even Charles II and James II were huge disappointments: they were kept very short of money and spent their discretionary funds in other ways. Theater was a public entertainment, but the patent monopoly (or more precisely duopoly) that Charles II agreed to in 1660 was to have drastic effects on theatrical operations and competition for upwards of two hundred years. One of these effects was to put playwrights (and their pay) squarely under the thumbs of those who controlled the patents. How drama and theater would have evolved if left unregulated is anyones guess. In 1660 no one could have imagined that in future decades theaters would suffer direct competition from orchestral and vocal concerts, or that huge sums of money would be poured into a (highly unprofitable) stand-alone opera company. Our cultural observer of 1660 could certainly not have supposed that publishers (who hardly existed in the modern sense) would eventually become central to the funding of elite culture. In 1660 publishing still seemed to lie permanently in the iron grip of the Stationers Company (though unlicensed publishing had flourished in the stormy 1640s), and the market was, in any case, manifestly tiny. What was unforeseeable was the scale of consumption and distribution of culture in the eighteenth century. A large and vital part of Carolean literary culture was scribal, not meant to be printed and widely disseminated.130 Political news-sheets, pamphlets, and broadsides of the Cromwell era notwithstanding, in 1660 no one could have dreamed of the world of the Daily Courant (founded in 1702) and its imitators, nor of cultural journals such as the Tatler and the Spectator (fl. 17091712), let alone the Gentlemans Magazine (founded in 1731 and reaching a circulation of 15,000 by the 1740s).131 Pondering the immensity of the changes involved, we must recognize that by about 1710 the world of the court coterie was increasingly a thing of the past and that elite culture was being purveyed in something like the modern world of mass media. The changes took place gradually over many decades, but the rapid rise of daily newspapers created a tipping point. (2) To try to earn a living as a writer, actor, or musician was a tough proposition. What constitutes a living is, to be sure, a matter of definition. Samuel Johnsons income was under 100 for the first twenty years of his London career,132 and his 10 for clothes and linen, a garret at 18d. per week, and dinner for 8d. (including a penny for the waiter) makes no allowance for a wife and children. Kings 60 per annum average for those in the Liberal Arts and Sciences implies a very limited lifestyle, but is a sum that few hack writers could have hoped to earn. Vanderlints 500 per annum minimum to
130. For two quite different but ultimately congruent views of this matter, see Robert D. Hume, Satire in the Reign of Charles II, Modern Philology 102 (2005): 33271; and Harold Love, English Clandestine Satire, 16601702 (Oxford, 2004). 131. See Plant, English Book Trade, 57. 132. Saunders, Profession of English Letters, 143.

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live as a gentleman cannot have been achieved by more than a tiny percentage of writers and musicians. By Lindert and Williamsons reckoning, to earn 400 per annum was to be in the top seven-tenths of 1 percent and to earn 100 put a family in the top 5 percent. To earn more than 45 per annum put a family in the top 16.5 percent. Such percentages should not mislead us. The 50 or 60 earned from a successful play in the Carolean period was not bad pay, but nothing like a comfortable London living for a family for a yearand after the union of 1682, the 1670s must have looked to playwrights like a golden age. The figures for sale of copyright preserved in the Upcott Collection and the Lintot notebook suggest that the usual rates remained anything but lavish throughout the first half of the eighteenth century. The only really big sums earned by cultural writers were from subscription publication: we should not forget that Lintot paid Pope far more for the Iliad and the Odyssey than he did in toto for all 149 books by other writers for which his payments are known. The incomes of theatrical performers exhibit an acute bifurcation: the majority range from the barest subsistence level to modest comfort, but principal performers could do very well indeedthough only proprietors (and some building-share owners in the seventeenth century) could be said to have lavish incomes. This is the impression one gets from fragmentary early records, and it is certainly what we find in 173536, when we first have almost complete records of pay and benefits for a whole company. Among the 148 regular employees of Covent Garden Theatre that year, we find just one who made more than 400 (John Rich, the aptly named proprietor). Fourteen more had total incomes of at least 200, and another ten had incomes between 100 and 200. Roughly one-sixth of the company was in the top 5 percent of incomes, nationally speaking, though only the proprietor received an income sufficient to live as a gentleman in Vanderlints terms. Extra income might be earned from fairs or summer theater or strolling. Women might capitalize on their bodies, discreetly or otherwise. Musicians and dancers would typically moonlight as teachers,133 or play at private parties. The pay of the house servants was paltry, but many of them probably had other jobs and many belonged to two-income familiesas did quite a few actors. Actors in employment could count on a regular income (barring fire or plague or closure for royal mourning). Writers could not, and their always irregular incomes ranged from very marginal (or worse) to lavish. When we consider the buying power of money between 1660 and 1740, we realize that the few writers, actors, musicians, and painters at the top end of the income spectrum were very well off indeed. The 1,0002,000 per annum taken home by Wilks, Booth, and Cibber put them in a very exclusive group. The 1,500 guinea salaries (plus private concerts and gifts) collected by the opera stars of the 1720s gave them something like the status rock stars enjoy

133. Pepys paid his wifes music teacher a heady 10s. per song (31 August 1667) but this can hardly have been the going rate paid by any but the gentry. The famous eighteenth-century instance of a prosperous London music teacher is Dr. Burney. In the period at issue a good example is Jean-Baptiste Loeillet, who worked for the opera and theater orchestras but published Lessons that he evidently sold to his society students. He died very comfortably off in 1730 with an estate including an extensive collection of instruments (ODNB).


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todayand made them the subject of obscene poems and envious commentary in the newspapers. Most notable writers did not make their livings (let alone their fortunes) by their pens. Dryden is often regarded as one of the earliest professional writers, but we should remember that he married a woman with a 3,000 fortune and enjoyed lucrative royal posts for most of his career.134 The 200 per annum they were supposed to yield was irregularly paid, but his brother-in-law held a senior exchequer position and helped Dryden collect most of what was owed him. When he lost his royal patronage after the revolution of 1688, he was able to capitalize on his position as Englands foremost man of letters. His translation of Virgil (a subscription publication) brought him 1,200. A lot of work went into that massive volume, but by way of comparison we should remember that no other translator except Pope earned such remuneration. In 1714 the learned Lewis Theobald contracted with Lintot to translate the Odyssey into English blank verse at the rate of 2 10s. for every 450 Greek verses (also supplying explanatory notes) and [t]o translate likewise the Satires and Epistles of Horace into English rhyme at the rate of 1 1s. 1d. for every 120 Latin lines.135 Translating Aeschylus tragedies was to bring him ten guineas in toto. Judging the prosperity or poverty of writers, actors, and musicians is doubly difficult because we do not know the scale of their expenses. If we assume that 5080 per annum was a competence, then quite a few people scratched out a fairly precarious living. If we accept Peter Earles analysis, then we must suppose that anyone with less than a 200 income was not really living what in later centuries would be thought of as a bourgeois life. Given the tiny print runs and the daily gross of the theaters (which generally operated at under two-thirds of capacity), there was simply not enough money spent on books and theater to generate many such incomes, especially after the publishers and proprietors had taken their hefty cuts. Occasional success stories notwithstanding, few authors consistently made much money by publishing books. James Ralphs famous Case of 1758 is shrill and whiney (there is no Difference between the Writer in his Garret, and the Slave in the Mines), but the dismal picture he conveys clearly had a great deal of truth in it. Publishers and managers profited far more than writers.136 Marjorie Plants dour verdict on publishing is borne out by extant figures for this period: The person who was of no account whatever . . . was the author.137 Large sums were occasionally earned by authors, but for a great many of them, writing was less a means of earning a living than a way of helping piece together a living or supplementing another source of income. As Geoffrey Holmes concluded, very few poets, dramatists or writers of serious pretension could hope to live prosperously by their literary work alone. . . bona fide men of letters usually had to find other ways to support themselves.138
134. See Winn, John Dryden and His World, Appendix C. 135. Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, 8:3012. 136. James Ralph, The Case of Authors by Profession as Trade Stated With Regard to Booksellers, the Stage, and the Public (London, 1758), quotation at 22. 137. Plant, English Book Trade, 68. 138. Geoffrey Holmes, Augustan England: Professions, State, and Society, 16801730 (London, 1982), 32.

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(3) Cultural products were punitively expensive for all save a very elite minority. I feel slightly foolish belaboring so obvious and elementary a point, but such insistence is apparently necessary. Theater historians have faithfully pointed out that the minimum cost of admission to Shakespeares Globe was probably 1d., whereas after 1660 both patent companies charged twelve times that sumbut virtually no effort has been made to analyze the effect of this increase on the size of audience, its social spectrum, or the economic impact on actors and writers. The very scholarly Cambridge History of the Book in Britain for 15571695 has little to say about either the cost of producing books or buying them. John Brewers admirably wide-ranging survey of eighteenth-century English culture mentions economics of any sort only occasionally and casually, and the massive collections on consumption that he has co-edited hardly refer to the subjects of cost and money at all.139 I feel compelled to underscore the fact that cultural production and consumption can occur only if someone generates the product and someone else buys it. The cost of production and the availability of discretionary funds to purchase the results are therefore not an incidental issue. For those concerned with issues of elite versus popular culture, the price to the consumer would seem to be fairly critical. These matters also have important implications for the concept of a bourgeois public sphere enunciated by Habermas and now in common use. Habermas put heavy stress on inclusivity and a bourgeois reading public comprising a wide range of classes. Yet we have good reason to believe that 5 percent represents an upper-end estimate of the proportion of the British population circa 1700 who had the money to buy any but the cheapest books.140 This is not the place to spar with Habermas and his followers, but I have to say that the economic realities of the time seem to me to cast grave doubt on the reality of his largely hypothetical construct. The plain fact is that items of consumption that we have regarded as bourgeois were decidedly elite in the first half of the eighteenth century. Opera and painting were stratospherically expensive; theater was pricey; and books of the sort that contained plays and poems were by no means readily affordable by those of the middling sort. Cheap books did exist and were widely bought. Blagdens statistics show that some 400,000 almanacs per annum were purchased in the 1660s, which means that nearly one-third of all households in England acquired one a startling percentage of those that contained one literate person.141 Large numbers of
139. Brewer, Pleasures of the Imagination; John Brewer and Roy Porter, eds., Consumption and the World of Goods (London, 1993); Ann Bermingham and John Brewer, eds., The Consumption of Culture 16001800 (London, 1995). 140. This conclusion has been reached in several studies that approach the subject from radically different angles: by David Cressy in Literacy in Context: Meaning and Measurement in Early Modern England, in Consumption and the World of Goods, 30519; by myself in the present essay; and by J. A. Downie in How Useful to Eighteenth-Century English Studies is the Paradigm of the Bourgeois Public Sphere? Literature Compass 1 (2003): 118. 141. See Cyprian Blagden, The Distribution of Almanacks in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century, Studies in Bibliography 11 (1958): 10716. Wholesale prices reported by Blagden vary, but 1d.2d. was common, with known retail prices running 2d. to 7d.


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chapbooks were printed, some of them devotional (Penny Godlinesses in Pepyss term), some purely for entertainment (Pepyss Penny Merriments). A large number of chapbooks were practical: cookbooks; gardening books; explanations of bonds, bills of sale, etc. They were distributed in large numbers by the numerous hawkers and peddlers (2,500 of whom paid 4 for a license in 1697 when Parliament passed a law requiring one). As Spufford observes, These chapbooks really were priced within reach of the agricultural labourer if he could read, and if he desired to.142 Relatively few copies survive: they were printed on cheap stock, and they were used as toilet paper. Poems and plays fall in a totally different category. Their usual minimum price was three to six times (and as much as twelve to eighteen times) that of a chapbook. The probable print run of most Carolean plays was no more than 500 copies.143 The price was relatively steep (1022.50 in modern terms?) and the market limitedthough at 1s. or 1s. 6d. a play quarto was cheap by the standards of a place in the pit or boxes, which ran 2s. 6d. and 4s. respectively. We are probably safe in assuming that a fair number of Londoners and visitors could pay a shilling to sit in the gallery of a theater. Far fewer could readily have afforded a place in the pit or boxes, or so the (emended) scales of income calculated by King imply. Surviving records strongly suggest that the theaters were rarely anything like full, and further that the galleries were not more crowded than the expensive parts of the house. When theaters were altered or rebuilt, the designers did not choose to pack in more galleryites in the place of posh customers. We have no reason to believe that management could have improved its gross by catering to cheap-seat customers. Early and late, the theaters provided entertainment for a clientele that could and would pay steep prices. Paintings were so expensive even at the bottom end of the price scale as to be de facto out of reach for all but a minuscule percentage of the population; 36 was not a sum even the middling sort could readily spend. When Pepys pays 30 for his wifes miniature, he is committing an extravagance that should stagger us. Public desire for art is no doubt reflected in the burgeoning market for engravings, which when priced at 6d. or 1s. were within reach of a vastly larger number of buyers. That this market was growing by the 1730s is evident from the sales enjoyed by Hogarth. Opera tickets were relatively affordable at one-fortieth the season subscription price for pit and boxes, but surviving figures imply that relatively few people chose to buy them. Records of cash receipts imply an average of no more than about 150200 buyers most nights, gallery sales included. David Hunter has calculated that only about 12 percent of the families that could afford a season subscription actually paid for one, commenting wryly on the relatively low level of market penetration.144 We
142. Spufford, Small Books and Pleasant Histories, 48, 116. 143. McKenzie points out that paper was the most expensive element in publishing, and once printed not re-usable, so it made better sense to test the market with small editions and then to print a work again if demand warranted it. This leads him to caution us against drawing inferences about total demand from the number of known editions; Printing and Publishing 15571700: Constraints on the London Book Trades, Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, 4:55367 at 556. 144. Hunter, Patronizing Handel, 36.

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must remember, however, that not all of those families lived in London, or even came to town for part of the year. I would guess that perhaps 600 or 800 families were in London enough of the year to consider subscribing, which would put the degree of participation more at the level of 18 to 25 percent. This seems quite high for so expensive an entertainment in a language almost no one understood, especially given that as a subscriber one would see the same shows six, or eight, or even ten or more times. Increasing interest in music on the part of a broader public is evident by the 1690s in the rapidly rising popularity of music meetings and the publication of both collections of music and single-sheet songs. Printed music aplenty was sold for home use, but it tended to be quite expensive.145 Purcells operas were a dizzying 30s. (the same price as Tonsons Shakespeare of 1709); Eccless song collection cost 15s.; the music of single operas circa 1710 ran 9s. Walshs price range ran from 6d. to 9s. with an average around 3s.4s. Songs and dialogues from The Island Princess cost 3s.; Ayres from various plays were relatively inexpensive at 1s. 6d. Some effort was made to reach a broader audience. Single songs from Thomyris could be had for a penny in 1708, and numbers of the Monthly Mask of Vocal Music were priced at just 6d. The existence of this burgeoning market leads us to an obvious question: what did instruments cost for home use? So far as I am aware, singularly little research has been carried out on the economics of the manufacture, sale, and resale of musical instruments, but Benjamin Hebbert has very generously shared with me some of the initial results of his ongoing investigation of this subject.146 No range of advertised prices is known; what the cheapest new instruments cost is not recorded, and instruments might be inherited or bought secondhand. Surviving information, however, implies that musical instruments would have been decidedly costly for all but a tiny percentage of the population.147 Upkeep for stringed instruments, for example, was not a negligible matter; good quality strings were ferociously expensive.148 For home use, virginals (supplanted by the spinet in the course of the 1660s and 1670s) were particularly appealing for the use of young ladies because after the initial purchase upkeep was low
145. See William C. Smith, A Bibliography of the Musical Works Published by John Walsh . . . 16951720 (London, 1948), esp. pp. xv and plates 7 and 27 (which reproduce price lists). 146. See Benjamin Hebbert, The London Music Trade 16501725 (D.Phil. thesis, Oxford Unversity, in progress). This thesis promises to become an important book. 147. Pepys, for example, bought a bass viol for 3 on 21 August 1663 (plus 10s. for carving its head). Viols, violins, spinets, and theorbos of the sort that might have been bought by Playford aficionados seem to have sold for 46. Fine English bass viols, Cremonese violins, and instruments for professional court musicians tend to range toward 12. Decent harpsichords seem to have run 1214. Old instruments or a fancy theorbo could easily fetch 20 but reportedly could go as high as 100. The spinet Pepys bought for 5 on 15 July 1668 would have represented a months income for one of Kings Gentlemen Educated in the Sciences and Liberal Arts. Expensive purchases will inevitably be better recorded than cheap ones: we have no way to judge how typical the prices paid by Pepys or the administrators of the Chapel Royal may be. 148. Hebbert informs me that a court musician could expect to spend 5 a year on strings and that Thomas Mace charged 10s. for the first Stringing of a lute and 5s. a quarter to maintain each Lute with Strings. Mace was at pains to deny the common view that one had as good keep a Horse (for Cost) as a Lute (Tho. Mace, Musicks Monument [London, 1676], 4344, 46).


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and tuning costs might well be absorbed into the cost of a teacher. Harpsichords (especially double manual models) were very costly to maintain.149 Whether concerts represented serious competition for the theaters is not clear, but I suspect not. The late-seventeenth-century theaters provided large amounts of music every night, with a special overture and act-tunes for every play.150 Music could be heard free in church or for just 1s. at the cheapest concerts or at inns providing hours of dance music at the same price. Concerts varied widely in price, but the tonier ones tended to be 5s., which was above the top price for a theater ticket. The idea that the rise of oratorios in the 1730s represents a move toward middle-class taste and greater affordability than operas must be at least partly wrong. The normal price for oratorios was exactly the same as for operas (10s. 6d., and 5s. in the first gallery). As Hunter bluntly and rightly concludes, Handel did not write for the middling sort for the simple reason that they could not afford to attend performances of his music except very occasionally.151 Ready access to quality music for the middling sort is probably what drove the popularity of Vauxhall, founded in the 1660s but radically refurbished and reconceived in 1732. Admission was just 1s. (and remained so until 1792); most of the other pleasure gardens followed suit. Ranelagh was the most expensive at 2s. 6d. (including cakes and tea).152 The famous statue of Handel that adorned Vauxhall from 1738 was surely not an accidental choice: the proprietors were advertising an elite product for mass consumption.153 We cannot afford to ignore the value of money. Sixpence sounds like nothing, but it is not negligible to anyone who earns 12d. for a days labor, and may be significant to someone who earns 100 per annum but has a family to support. A price of 5 shillings made a book costly or simply unobtainable for fully 99 percent of the population. John Brewer rightly points to the importance of Bells publishing reprints of plays, available for 6d. each, and editions of poets works for 1s. 6d. in the 1770s and 1780s; but when he says that a complete collection of the 109 volumes of poets was available unbound for a mere eight guineas he is very misleading.154 The price was indeed a bargain, but there was nothing mere about eight guineas even at the end of the eighteenth century. The bottom line is simple: if we are to comprehend the production and consumption of culture in this or any other period, then we must understand the economic realities that controlled them. the pennsylvania state university

149. Detailed figures are printed and analyzed in Judith Milhous and Curtis Price, Harpsichords in the London Theatres, 16971715, Early Music 18 (1990): 3846. In 1706 Drury Lane paid 5s. for tuning each harpsichord (and 2s. 6d. for each spinet). 150. See Curtis A. Price, Music in the Restoration Theatre (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1979). 151. Hunter, Patronizing Handel, 3840. 152. I am grateful to David Coke for price information. His book on Vauxhall is eagerly awaited. 153. See Otto Erich Deutsch, Handel: A Documentary Biography (London, 1955), 456 (and illustration opposite 480). It was executed in white marble by Roubiliac, cost 300, and was vigorously publicized. 154. Brewer, Pleasures of the Imagination, 486.

the economics of culture in london, 16601740 abstract


Robert D. Hume asks four principal questions in this article: (1) Who were the consumers of elite culture, and what could and would they pay? (2) What could be earned by writers, actors, singers, musicians, painters? (3) Who actually profited from the sale of culture? (4) How did patronage affect the production of culture? A survey of surviving figures for income strata and the prices paid by buyers suggests that the consumers of elite culture belonged largely to the wealthiest two percent of the population. Analysis of incomes shows that trying to earn a living as a writer, actor, or musician was a tough proposition. Patronage turns out to be surprisingly important, but more in terms of jobs, sinecures, and subscriptions than from individual largesse. Exact equivalencies to modern buying power are impossible to calculate, but scholars need to realize, for example, that in 1709 fully two-thirds of the books advertised in the Term Catalogues cost two shillings or less: a five-shilling book was pricey.