The Economics of Culture in London, 1660–1740 Author(s): Robert D.

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The Economics of Culture in London, 1660–1740
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. Plumb’s “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), 265–85. Among numerous background studies of use are Lorna Weatherill, Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in Britain, 1660–1760 (1988; 2d ed. London, 1996); Peter Borsay, The English Urban Renaissance: Culture and Society in the Provincial Town, 1660–1770 (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, 1780–1850.” 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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robert d. hume

in a slightly later period, I would point to William St. Clair’s 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 1660–1740 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.

the economics of culture in london, 1660–1740


(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, 1750–1850: 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): 26–83.

its ₤1 price was worth ₤107 in terms of buying power in—which uses figures from the work of the highly respected John J. not the extraordinary. one cannot use the same multiplier for both. Rowling in a later age. To ignore such problems with evidence. To the extent that figures survive. or J. As I write in 2005 one may get “lunch” in London for ₤3 at McDonald’s or for ₤100 at Gordon Ramsay (the latter with only modest beverages). but not really the point. however. products. food was very pricey while housing was cheap.490 robert d. in 2002 terms. K. for reasons I shall try briefly to explain. that the particulars collected and analyzed here are sufficient to substantiate a number of fairly strong conclusions. Likewise. hume live for a whole year (an anecdote discussed below). The Economic History website price comparator (eh. Over the long term. I believe. they are probably little more representative than those for Norman Mailer. However interesting the figures preserved for Dryden. Swift.and early6. Let me illustrate. or to pretend that we have all the evidence we could want. in essence. ₤108 in 1680. McCusker) tells us that in 1623 (the date of the First Folio). or Fielding. Equivalency in product is also problematic. one can create an index of sorts. We know quite a lot about Alexander Pope’s finances. ₤111 in 1700. the standard approach to such calculations leads to deceptive results. The difficulty. In the period at issue. Our central concern needs to be with the normal and mundane. This investigation focuses on elite as opposed to plebian forms of culture. 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. our sources are skewed. Stephen King. is that various commodities. ₤1 had buying power of ₤92 in 1660. What the Duke of Buckingham could afford to spend or what Sir Peter Lely earned from painting is pertinent. 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. Unfortunately. 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. would be irresponsible. ₤113 in 1720. We would like to know what the whole spectrum of potential purchasers had to spend and what they bought. but such indexes tend to be misleading (as official government “cost of living” increases are today). but very little of Thomas Durfey’s or Eliza Haywood’s. any single item may yield a wildly misleading “multiplier” for comparison to present-day currency when this figure is applied to any other item. Even within the realms of the elite. Pope. and ₤98 in 1740. By McCusker’s conversion factors. and services change in cost at very different rates over time. but for the most part we need to pay particular attention to the ordinary. Defoe. Consequently.6 Even if we knew exact prices for all sorts of things at all dates (which we do not). Shortage of evidence makes this difficult. We should certainly not ignore Pepys’s extensive documentation of his spending—but must not forget that he rapidly became very rich. 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. seventeenth. .

1934–50). so an income of. One must. even in London: Samuel Johnson estimated his own basic living expenses at precisely that figure for his early years there. be a very reckless operating assumption. however..337 in 2002. and one might imagine that multiplying by one hundred would yield a general approximation of prices circa 2000. F. N. A Foreign View of England. Top of scale for the most distinguished living actors was ₤150 per annum (intended to be paid in full without a benefit). to half a guinea per week to rent two rooms). which might imply a multiplier of at least six hundred. clerical work. Boswell’s Life of Johnson. box seat to ₤20 (low by half or more).000 in modern terms by this multiplier. 6d. 1992).10 Fancy clothes tended to be very costly. These figures (and that for wine. 1:103–6. Decent wine from a tavern. This would. William Ingram compares them with the earnings of minimum wage workers circa 1990 and establishes a multiplier in the vicinity of one thousand—a tenfold difference. George Birkbeck Hill. How much an eighteenth-century actor might have supplemented his or her income is not possible to calculate.8 But by the eh. The price of an opera ticket for pit or box settled at 10s.the economics of culture in london. below) are from César de multiplier would amount to less than a third of the cost of a comparable ticket at the Royal Opera House circa 2000. which is not a sum on which to live. ₤200 per annum was largely spendable. rev. however frugally.. Consider theatrical salaries. per pot (whereas porter was 3d. and ale a steep 1s. Working (somewhat tongue in cheek) from the weekly wages of unskilled laborers circa 1620. Estimates of annual incomes for various professions do not include additional income: the clergymen whose livings yielded less than ₤10—and there were thousands of them—must have supplemented their church incomes with teaching. which would make it ₤25 if multiplied by one hundred and ₤75 if multiplied by three hundred. 1660–1740 491 eighteenth-century prices were relatively stable. By 7. or ₤15. we will find that no single multiplier makes sense. however. trans.). Primrose). William Ingram. Beer was wonderfully cheap in the early eighteenth century at 1d. . The Business of Playing (Ithaca. it would amount to ₤3. Housing was relatively affordable (6d. and other occupations. These sums seem far too low. 6d. could cost 5s. (Oxford. but there were steep import duties and a variety of wealth taxes. 10. 6 vols. Bottom of scale for an actor in about 1700 was ₤30 per annum. a 4s. But adjust as we may. of course. One could live on this sum. or about ₤2. gallery seat would come to ₤5.. that puts us in a different financial universe from a “modern equivalent” only one hundred times an early-seventeenth-century figure. Madame van Muyden (1902. Income tax as we know it did not exist in the period at issue. Powell. This is low by a factor of three. reprint ed. which by the eh.50 if our multiplier is one hundred. 99. The most common price of a small book or pamphlet was 6d. 9. farming (consider Goldsmith’s Dr. 103. and neither was there vat.7 Even if we accept Ingram’s more cautious suggestion that we should use a multiplier between five and eight hundred. Saussure.9 If we multiply by one hundred. even if we ignore the incomes of film actors and opera stars. the modern cost would be only 42 pence. which is low by a factor of at least four and more plausibly six. allow for differences in taxation. L. say. London. ed. At these rates a 1s. A Foreign View of England in 1725–1729. 8. 36.Y. 1995). a bottle (transport and tax both running high).–1s.

but to understand the costliness. As I write. Holmes. In the little survey just concluded. See Lee Soltow. for example. ed.” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. upper-tier prices in London commercial theaters are mostly ₤35 to ₤45. 5 shillings was far from negligible. 13. we have seen multipliers from 100 to 600. 5th ser. 27 (1977): 41–68.492 robert d. however.” in Two Tracts by Gregory King. points out some disquieting features of King’s figures and categories.12 Henri Misson’s Memoirs (concerning the reign of William III. “Natural and Political Observations and Conclusions upon the State and Condition of England. Detailed statistical information of the sort collected by the nineteenth-century British government never existed for earlier centuries. which in addition to a couple of cab rides and some drinks would come to over ₤200 for the outing. We might say loosely that in the realms studied here prices have generally risen by two to three hundred times (sometimes more.. Barnett (Baltimore. a sum of. G. albeit with some degree of skepticism and caution.11 This brings us to the problem of identifying and analyzing the potential buyers. My point is that the cost of the jaunt is essentially similar in 1700 and in 2000. 11. 21 (1968): 17–29. for comparison with a date beyond the period under consideration here. About the best we can now do for the period at issue is to turn to such familiar sources as Gregory King’s Natural and Political Observations (a 1696 analysis of the economic situation as of 1688). 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. we have to know who had the requisite money. each arguably valid in its own terms. The theaters are often crowded: obviously many consumers can and do pay this price. To rely on figures whose sources and mode of calculation we do not know and cannot fully check is manifestly dangerous. 5 shillings. . with cheapest unrestricted view at ₤15 to ₤20. Whether we regard the present value of say. hume 16 December 1667 Pepys was cheerfully spending ₤6 on fabric for a cloak and ₤8 for the “outside” of a velvet one. say. Jacob Vanderlint’s Money answers all Things (1734)—and. 2d ser. A seventeenth-century family of four sitting in a box would now be spending ₤160.” Economic History Review.13 Historians have generally agreed. Joseph Massie’s Calculations of the Present Taxes (1761).. as ₤50 or ₤75 (or arguably more or less). see “Gregory King and the Social Structure of Pre-Industrial England. most consumers of culture will find the sum significant—even if they can freely spend it. S. translated in 1719). We will find that for a very high percentage of the population of London between 1660 and 1740. George E. that faute de mieux the figures must be used. 31. César de Saussure’s A Foreign View of England in 1725–1729 (translated in 1902). “Long-Run Changes in British Income Inequality. 1936). because the buying power varies drastically with what is being bought. 12. 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. sometimes less).

1660–1740 493 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. 1688–1913. See E. R. to some 5. as witness the differences between the . and “Reinterpreting Britain’s Social Tables. (Cambridge. xxii. vol. 1988). The per capita total went up a bit between 1688 and 1759 (about 18 percent according to Lindert and Williamson’s proposed revisions of our primary sources).K.576. 1969). Williamson. 1688–1812..14 An obvious question arises at this point: does inflation invalidate the use of King’s (emended) figures for any date other than circa 1688? Lacking alternative sources.16 The population at this time remained fairly stable. but such sources as Horsefield.” Explorations in Economic History 20 (1983): 94–109. For the purposes of this essay. King’s figures were not published until 1936. 16. Agricultural prices rise and fall with aberrations in weather.. rev. 388). Lindert and Jeffrey G. Phyllis Deane and W. Population History of England. John Burnett. Current understanding of eighteenthcentury economic history has changed rapidly in recent years. The “real wage” index chart supplied by Wrigley and Schofield suggests a more than 35 percent increase between King and Massie. “King’s guesses on average family income are vindicated for lower-ranked occupations but disproved for the upper classes” (whose incomes were substantially higher than King’s estimates [p. See Peter H.5 percent over eighty years. 1960). in the earlier article they note that “Numerous 17th century documents strongly suggest that King grossly overestimated common laborers and paupers. They revise the total of persons in science and liberal arts down from 16. “Revising England’s Social Tables. Mitchell. Testing King against data now available to economic historians. Wrigley and Schofield. J. See Lindert and Williamson. for 14. and the correlation is surprisingly good.000.898 (p. A History of the Cost of Living (Harmondsworth. 1688–1959. A. 1: Price Tables (London. Lord Beveridge. 1989). “Reinterpreting Britain’s Social Tables. British Economic Growth. The Population History of England. Cole. By their calculations.000 to 12. but the general economic picture is not greatly altered. while admitting that their calculations will be subject to further revision “as data accumulate” (p. For example. B. 1650–1710 (London.the economics of culture in london. while undercounting artisans” (p. Beveridge. 387). they offer a picture in which “the rich have got richer.” Explorations in Economic History 19 (1982): 385–408. historians have employed King for any time from about 1660 to a century later. and a more than 40 percent increase between 1660 and 1740. 2d ed. British Historical Statistics (Cambridge. U. I am therefore relying on the revisions to King and Massie proposed by Lindert and Williamson. 1541–1871 (1981. increasing only about 8. 394). et al. for example). ed.15 The percentages assigned to various social classifications alter here and there. the fit is less than perfect.” p. Burnett. One can derive a larger figure from other sources. 391]). 17.18 Theater admission prices remain constant from 1660 to the 1740s. but the “income shares” of various groups change very little. Keith Horsefield. 102 (Table 3). go up 1s. Wrigley and R. Schofield. S.17 Inflation was relatively mild overall in the period at issue. Prices and Wages in England from the Twelfth to the Nineteenth Century. British Monetary Experiments. 18. and Mitchell suggest overall stability in price structures (in sharp contrast to the Jacobean period. and the middle groups more populated” (p. 405). A. 15. and wars sometimes cause abrupt spikes (as around 1697). 1965). Cambridge. 207–9. the poor are fewer. Yet we know that prices fluctuated with drought and war: can we legitimately apply King’s figures to 1715 or 1740? Obviously. They are very blunt in stating that their revised figures are an improvement. Deane and Cole. so Massie probably had no access to them. but we can compare them with Massie’s calculations for the later 1750s. 1967).

Readers should note that historians’ estimates of the population of London vary widely throughout this period. I note that 12 pennies (abbreviated “d. If we know that something cost.21 In short. J. 19. eds. is simple. 1700–1850 (Oxford. they point out that “the cost of living for the poor rose and fell dramatically relative to the cost of living for the rich. country property could generate rents or farm produce or both. and then remain unchanged until new theaters are built in the 1790s. rev. L. Many people who had salaried “jobs” derived part of their income from property. ₤1 did not have greatly different purchasing power in 1740 from what it had in 1660. Levin. 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. Shorter life spans meant that people inherited property sooner and oftener than is now the case.” Journal of Economic History 62 (2002): 322–55. is that a lot or a little? This depends on who is being asked to pay it. as of 1688 only about 71. the poor. and people allocate their money in radically different ways. and this increased the number of people with ready access to theaters and bookshops. Lindert. 2004). 20. reduced to its crux.000 in 1700 and to 675. see M. eds. others will splurge or scrimp and save to acquire something. Davis S. However. contrariwise. and Roderick Floud and Paul Johnson.22 We must. 1: 1700–1860 (Cambridge. 5 shillings.5 percent. vol. Patricia A. quotations at 322 and 325.”) constituted a shilling (“s. According to Lindert and Williamson’s emendation of King’s figures. Daunton. For an authoritative recent account. vol. For the period at issue here. To be specific. rank/occupation and income were as follows: original edition of Floud and McCloskey (1981) and its successors. ed. the population of London was growing.” See Philip T. Jacks. of course. We are left to ask what those figures really mean. Beier and Roger Finlay. Hoffman.. A guinea was 21s. “Real Inequality in Europe since 1500. Roger Finlay and Beatrice Shearer. the population of London increased from 375. By their revision of King’s estimates. “Population Growth and Suburban Expansion. London 1500–1700: The Making of the Metropolis (London. 1995).” which makes any index heavily weighted to staples misleading for upper-end groups. and the middle-income ranks consume very different bundles of goods and services. . we possess some apparently stable and reliable figures about incomes and costs. and Peter H. Our problem. The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain.000 families).. see The Economic History of Britain since 1700. (Cambridge.494 robert d. The authors of a recent study of class inequality with respect to income observe that “the rich. say. 21. Progress and Poverty: An Economic and Social History of Britain. 1: 1700–1860. Urban property could be rented out.000 in 1650 to at least 490. 22. 1994).390.”) and twenty shillings constituted a pound. 37–59 at 39. hume box seats (causing some protest). For the benefit of those not familiar with the pre-decimal currency Britain finally abandoned in 1971.19 For the purposes of buying culture.20 Neither (overall) were many more people possessed of sufficient means to buy cultural artifacts.000 by 1750—an 80 percent increase during a century in which the total population of England went up only about 10.” in A. People who can easily pay will not necessarily do so. remember that income derived from landholding could vary drastically from year to year depending on harvests and the ever-fluctuating price of corn.000 families in all of England had gross annual incomes of ₤100 or more (about 5 percent of some 1. 1986).

057 More merchants and traders ₤200 p.300 p.240 Miners ₤15 p. four children.060 p.the economics of culture in london. 495 Industry and Building 6. Jacob Vanderlint. 75–76.500 p.000 Army Officers ₤60 p. R.283 Manufacturing trades ₤38 p. treacherous. shopkeepers. laborers.000 Clergymen ₤72 p.490 More freeholders ₤55 p. of course.a.a. 21. . Vanderlint calculates that the “annual charge of maintaining” a laboring man and his wife and four children in London with food. miners.a. 8. 1660–1740 High Titles and Professions 200 Temporal Lords ₤6.a. and vagrants simply could not afford to purchase or witness much (if any) elite culture. 1500–1800 (Leicester.183 Cottagers and paupers ₤6.a. Early in the eighteenth century sixteen of the bishops had incomes under ₤1. esp.489 Vagrants ₤2 p.a.000 per annum.a.a. paupers. 5. 24. 1981). 162. 141–42.000 and ₤2.a.000 More clergymen ₤50 p. and two rooms would come to some ₤55 per annum. 26 Spiritual Lords [Bishops]₤1.018 Building trades ₤25 p.000 Common seamen ₤20 p.a.000 Common soldiers ₤14 p. in the upper reaches of the groups specified in this list. light.062 Persons in the law ₤154 p. cottagers. 313.704 Shopkeepers and tradesmen ₤45 p.a. eds. See D. with food and clothes claiming between 55 and 75 percent of the total—and housing estimated at only about ₤4.000 More persons in offices ₤120 p. Agriculture 27. and one maid) he calculates a basic annual budget of ₤315 (plus ₤75 per annum needed to secure the future of wife and children).000.000 Esquires ₤562 p. 50. As late as 1762 Canterbury yielded ₤7. construction workers. 73. King presumes forty family members and servants for the nobility.a. 35. three enjoyed incomes above ₤3. We must assume higher than average income and prices for people living in London. 145–46. Money answers all Things (London. Princes and Paupers in the English Church. seamen.745 Artisans and Handycrafts ₤200 p..898 Persons in sciences & lib. The numerous small freeholders.24 By his reckoning. Military and Maritime 5. Averages are. 12.997 Laborers and outservants ₤15 p.a. 5. 3. Bristol just ₤450. 4. 2. 1660–c. Some of these incomes supported large families and retinues.a.a. coal.568 Freeholders ₤91 p.000 Naval officers ₤80 p. Laborers and Poor 284.a.264 Merchants and traders ₤400 p. six received between ₤1. 600 Knights ₤800 p.a.000. He assumes that such a family will spend ₤4 per annum on entertainment of friends and 23. manufacturing and trade laborers. arts ₤60 p. 23.a. Hirschberg. 211–30 at 212. 96. For a “family in the middling Station of Life” (husband.a.000.a.5 p. 800 Baronets ₤1.a. 103.a.a.000 Gentlemen ₤280 p.a. 101.a. clothes. 14.000 Persons in offices ₤240 p. soldiers. 22. “Episcopal Incomes and Expenses.382 Farmers ₤42 p.a. wife. 10. the economic capacity to purchase culture was very narrowly concentrated. 1734). and households of twenty for the bishops. Commerce 5. farmers.a.23 But if King’s emended approximations are even roughly accurate. seven-eighths of the population fell at or below this level. 15.1760.a.” in Rosemary O’Day and Felicity Heal.a.

and therefore such figures do not necessarily represent the whole of the incomes of those connected with the theater. 1680–1780 . 113–14. For a wide-ranging introduction to the evidentiary problems and historiographic debates. and the Family in England. Lindert and Williamson’s revisions suggest 83 percent. Pinkethman’s contracted salary as of 1709 is reported in the National Archives LC 7/3.27 25. A conceptual difficulty in the calculation of income needs to be addressed at this point. Hunt. there were a modest number of people who fell. Some of the families possessed of such an income probably spent nothing on culture. Eighteenth-Century English Society (New York. King’s figures show 87 percent under ₤50. Given the desperate poverty of most of the population (upwards of 90 percent earning less than ₤50 per annum).26 the growth of this proto–middle class is obviously crucial to changes in the consumption of culture. somewhere between artisans (who lived a notch above subsistence level) and the gentry. 26. These groups had a high rate of literacy and some disposable income. Figures showing nightly payments to members of the opera orchestra tell us nothing about what the players earned from concerts or from teaching. 108. earned a ₤100 per annum salary (plus a benefit at ₤40 house charges). 1997). In his view. This was true of Pepys’s navy job. 1987). hume some ₤50 on rent and taxes. and music. “He’s the darling of Fortunatus. but even early in Pinkethman’s career John Downes says enviously.” I do not propose to rehearse the scholarly wars of the last forty years concerning the existence or nonexistence of a “middle class. while some of the military officers and persons in sciences and liberal arts no doubt spent disproportionately on books. economically. the minimum annual income for a “gentleman” is ₤500. Judith Milhous and Robert D. and apparently true for some ticket takers in the theaters. His figures imply that only about five thousand families in England would qualify. Some positions were worth more in graft and gratuities than in salary. Servants (and sometimes others) received food and lodging. The Middling Sort: Commerce. In King’s figures. King. 27. and others supply estimates of gross annual income.496 robert d. 19.” No such thing was recognized during the period 1660–1740 in any modern sense of that phrase. How they factor in bartering or the economic benefit of doing some farming on the side (if they do) is not at all clear. So far as I can see. Secondary income can be more important than the primary income for which we have records. He was a fabulously successful operator of fair booth shows and later of suburban summer theaters. The actor William Pinkethman. John Downes.”25 We cannot know how early arithmeticians arrived at their estimates or exactly what they included. and in reality. Mention must be made here of the problem of “class. This figure is from Douglas Hay and Nicholas Rogers. Vanderlint. see Margaret R. A related problem is that official cash income is not necessarily the same thing as total benefit. for example. than those that have Tugg’d at the Oar of Acting these 50. plays. Hume (London. Gender. fols. Spending patterns are individual and highly variable. Terms such as “the middling sort” and “the trading classes” were applied to such people at the time. Vanderlint’s assumptions correlate surprisingly well with the implications of King’s figures. Roscius Anglicanus. a substantial number of whom would be resident in London at least part of the year. ed. he has gain’d more in Theatres and Fairs in Twelve Years.

mama. .. First. A set of distinctions needs to be made. Calif. 1550–1800 (London. or close to it. and so on). Seasonal patterns represent another important difference. the jaunt would cost 16s. On the distribution of wealth within late-seventeenth-century London. 28–51. Add a meal in a decent tavern. there is the vital question of the economic levels to which potential customers belong. when the population was still sparse and there were relatively poor communications around the country. to judge from Pepys’s reports of eating out. The Making of the English Middle Class (London. see Henry Horwitz. “‘Sorts of People’ in Tudor and Stuart England. In the theater you may fill your second gallery at 1s. per head. we must acknowledge the difference between occasional and habitual consumers of culture. to three thousand people grosses ₤75.29 Contemplating the implications of these figures I will venture two observations. A trip to the theater for papa. 7 of Beier and Finlay. 1989). Second. But looking to the average. some families would not have had a penny to spare. and Politics in England. 1996).” a session of Parliament. this amounts to 27s. but they represent a very different market from those who went two or three times a week (or more). The location of Vanbrugh’s Haymarket Theatre was evidently a drawback early in its history. 28. Many people might go to the theater as a special treat. Power.” Continuity and Change 2 (1987): 263–96. “‘The mess of the middle class’ Revisited: The Case of the ‘big bourgeoisie’ of Augustan London. 10. and the 27s. J. but if the pit and boxes are sparsely populated you will have a very bad night. and walked to and from the theater. to five hundred people grosses ₤125 (ignoring dealer discounts). large families. if they sat in the second gallery. dowries to pay. per month. chap. see M. see Keith Wrightson. For a salutary examination of the dangers of imposing our terminology on the period at issue. The Middling Sort of People: Culture. In the late seventeenth century. For a fundamental demolition of the “emulation” and other social models of the later twentieth century. coach fare to avoid the muddy streets.” chap. Selling a book at 6d. 1994). A good many probably came to London rarely if at all—and some must have been totally uninterested in culture.” in Jonathan Barry and Christopher Brooks. would be gone. A London resident is a potential customer year round. 1660–1740 497 Employing Peter Earle’s plausible estimates. someone who lives in Remoteshire and comes for “the season. Society. And third. eds. 29. My discussion here is indebted to Peter Earle. First. Social geography within London is also an issue. London 1500–1700.the economics of culture in london. If they sat in a box. 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. eds. “The Social Topography of Restoration London..—probably plus 2s. and Goodman’s Fields was built in that location to make it accessible to customers who lived in the City. and two bambini would cost exactly 4s. took no refreshment. 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. or a court term will be a much more occasional purchaser. selling a fancier book at 5s. 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. the critical mass of potential buyers of elite (Berkeley. especially for theaters. Most of that group can have had little money to spare (what with debt..28 A bachelor of simple tastes might have much more. for oranges all around and another 2s.

places in the pit (19 January 1661). that ₤50 per annum was a satisfactory income for his parents (15 September 1663). 1970–83).30 Even out of that limited budget he contrived to give his mistress “Mrs Jem” a gift of ₤5 (21 January 1660). He agreed to buy and donate ₤5 in books to St. 6d. Five months after that. 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. gallery—and was mortified when he saw clerks from his office in 2s. have been largely driven by the very small proportion of the population that was sufficiently affluent to afford luxuries. Paul’s School (23 December 1661) and he paid a cheap painter ₤6 (plus 36s. he was an avid theatergoer. There were. ed. On 22 November 1661 he gave a party at the Dolphin costing ₤4. plus another ₤2 for music. 11 vols. in cash (13 February 1660). hume culture was too small to make it very profitable. let us turn briefly to a very particular (if atypical) buyer. Yet when he visited the theater in January 1661 he took a place in the 1s. for frames) for portraits of himself and his wife (16 January 1662). Yet a maid cost ₤3 per annum (26 March 1662—plus food and lodging). References to Pepys (given here by date) are to The Diary of Samuel Pepys. expenses. though he reckoned on 10 August 1660 that with gifts and commissions he might expect to net ₤3 per day on average (roughly ₤1. on 29 November he took an 18d. Pepys continued to believe. he trades two others for it and adds 6s. The same month he threw a pretentious dinner party whose cost he calculated at “above” ₤5 (24 January). however. Pepys was willing to pay ₤30 for a miniature picture of his wife’s head (29 March 1668). he wondered whether he should offer ₤200 for a Holbein in poor condition. Six years later. therefore. and this proved to be a considerable underestimate. By way of comparison with social categories and generalities about consumers. Robert Latham and William Matthews. on a petticoat for his wife (18 August 1660). 31. He bought a piece of plate worth ₤19 as a thankyou gift for Coventry (4 July 1660).. (London. Such culture must. He laid out ₤8 10s. 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).498 robert d. for a velvet cloak on 17 May 1662 and ₤5 for two perriwigs (31 October 1663) and was 30. When he buys Playford’s “great book of songs” for 14s. He was relieved to be taxed only 10s. on his social standing in 1660. and Pepys was shocked exactly a year later when he had to pay ₤4 for a cook (26 March 1663). At the start of the diary in 1660. 6d. place in the theater. and as early as August 1660 he lavished ₤2 10s. a lover of music. and a bibliophile. . since he was well aware that as one now entitled to call himself “Esquire” he ought to pay ₤10 (10 December 1660). Happily. 6d. in ready money as a means of avoiding wasteful spending (16 February 1660). “said to be worth ₤1000” (29 August 1668). At this time he deliberately carried only 3d. increasingly extravagant. Samuel Pepys’s income and expenditures are extraordinarily well documented.000 per annum). he was a clerk with a ₤50 annual salary (19 January 1660)—plus small fees and gratuities.31 By 1662 he was promising his wife ₤20 for Easter clothes (9 February). Pepys could spend significant sums if he chose to. inevitably.

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. two bookkeepers got ₤80 each. a doorkeeper ₤25. fols. to a point that he had once thought would let him become a knight and keep a carriage (2 March 1662). he hesitated. p.000 to ₤12. As of August 1665 it had increased more than twenty-fold. The Duke of Buckingham had an income of about ₤20. we might look to the salary scale of the Commission of Public Accounts when it was established in 1691. a messenger ₤30. Elite portrait painters might hope for lavish commissions from the very rich. Simple math. and a porter ₤16.33 The value of royal attendance lay more in social cachet than in money—which often took years to collect in any case.the economics of culture in london. I owe this reference to the kindness of Alan Downie. He did not regard himself as rich. To be really rich. British Library. 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. . But when Pepys established a budget for 1664. 68–69). tells us that precious few people in England could afford to buy the ₤1 and ₤2 books that Pepys indulged in. 33. and he was saving about half of 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. 10–11.000 and more per annum. In the 1680s James II and his queen sat together in the same box. 127 (bill for royal attendance at Bridges Street in the later 1660s). Yet when he visited his bookseller on 10 December 1663 to spend ₤2 or ₤3.000. He regarded the theater as a guilty pleasure: he tried to resist temptation and punished himself for succumbing. The secretary got ₤100 per annum. the secretary’s assistant received ₤50. the National Archives LC 5/139. He certainly had the money: his gross income by the mid-1660s was about ₤1. and other bounty on his voyage to greet the returning king. one needed a net worth of ₤10. See. or Chaucer. He wound up buying Fuller’s Worthys and a collection of Letters of State.000 per annum in the 1660s and wildly overspent it. for example. wondering whether to buy a Third Folio Shakespeare (probably ₤1)—or Jonson. he calculated his net worth as near ₤100 (3 June 1660). however. in his view. After receiving some ₤70 in royal. (₤2 10s. ducal. Thanks to the perquisites of his job. and when he commanded a performance at court he paid a flat fee of ₤20. however. As a contrast to Pepys’s lavish remuneration as a civil servant. saving ₤10 (LC 5/147. By October 1667 his net worth had risen above ₤6. a separate box was taken for her at the same price. Pepys had money to 32.000 (19 February 1664). We must remember that when Charles II came to the theater (once or twice a month on average) he paid ₤10 to do so. or Beaumont and Fletcher.) to theater for the whole year (2 January). but theaters and publishers had to rely on patrons well represented by the likes of Samuel Pepys. Harleian MS 1488. If the queen attended too. 1660–1740 499 proud of being able to do so. When the Duke of Buckingham attended the theater he presumably took a box—which cost him the same 16s. pp. Contrariwise. he allocated 50s.32 No doubt many prosperous people shared Pepys’s discomfort about spending money on the ephemeral pleasures of the theater. that Pepys spent in the later 1660s when he treated his wife and a couple of friends to a box.

Those profits were probably considerable at times. This is vastly less true today. and theater. see Gerald Eades Bentley. Only Dryden is known to have received substantial additional remuneration over a lengthy period.37 In the 1660s the sums must have been small. Book purchase is another form of consumption in which trade-ins and secondhand purchase were very much the norm for many people. For a detailed analysis of all known evidence from 1660 to 1800. The Profession of Dramatist in Shakespeare’s Time (Princeton.” Harvard Library Bulletin. per week salary plus a benefit worth at least ₤5 for each new play.J. music. I am indebted to Harold Love for several of these points. or maximum gross. n. Neither has received much attention from historians of the drama.” who bought worn-out clothes and repaired them. . We tend. 35. In the country. Others would have gone to secondhand dealers. Clothes were re-used until they fell to bits and were then sold to be recycled into paper manufacture. Hume. people lived off the land. The price scale was 34. for example.) Because of the normalcy of early death. to buy new clothes. and restrictions on competition. or to the “botchers.. hume burn—but he was far more inclined to spend it on showy clothes and dinner parties than on literature. 10 (1999): 3–90. if the play lasted that long). the total stock of household property turned over at a rapid rate. esp. 99. 97.35 After 1660 playwrights received the profits of the third night (from the 1690s. Many kinds of tradesmen gave credit (and knew they would have trouble collecting all of what was owed them). were proprietors. 36. The principal beneficiaries.500 robert d. on which the present discussion draws heavily. Two factors exercise crucial influence on the money that could be made out of the theaters: capacity. making a lot of “pre-owned” property available at all times. N. Daborne reports potential profits of ₤20 or ₤25 per play circa 1613 and in the 1630s Brome was getting 15s. Prices went up considerably from the ₤6 cash payments known for the 1590s. Relatively few figures survive concerning actor and playwright remuneration before 1642. We are not dealing with a pure cash economy and making the necessary allowances is for the most part a matter of guesswork. but their total value is impossible to estimate. 106. but in the long eighteenth century only the well-to-do would have done so. not a salary.36 What playwrights actually earned from author’s benefits before 1714 is almost entirely unknown. proprietors. “Playwrights’ Remuneration in Eighteenth-Century London. (Automobiles are now one of the few items that middling persons buy used rather than new. see Judith Milhous and Robert D. getting prices for used clothing still harder—but even the theaters bought a lot of used clothes for service as costumes. however. Purchasing patterns also vary across the centuries. 1971). Paintings could be bought secondhand from a dealer. also the sixth and ultimately the ninth night. 105. traded produce. performers. and since prices were generally not advertised in any way they are very hard to determine. and later 20s. and house servants. Obtaining prices for new clothes is not easy. 37. and he got a share in the King’s Company’s profits.34 Earning a Living from the Theater The theaters were a potential source of income for playwrights. and perhaps did some quiet poaching. Practically anything might be bought from a pawnshop.s. For a convenient overview of known evidence.

less whatever house charges were assessed. and the gross receipts for a full house were probably about ₤50. 1753). had a normal maximum gross of about ₤105 (with serious crowding). see Zachary Baggs. Quite a few new plays were professionally staged in London between 1660 and 1700 (more than four hundred of them). in the second gallery—in comparison with Shakespeare’s day. but the principle probably holds true: a lot of money could be made by selling benefit tickets above face value. as he himself had never been able to acquire more than one hundred by any of his most successful pieces. What we have no way to know is how much more they gained from gifts and benefit tickets sold above face value. and too much in the character of an under-player”. subtracting the customary house charges of ₤25. see the “Private accounts of a Lady 1736–1765. twelve. This source is late and of dubious authority. 1s.the economics of culture in london. Dryden once took occasion to ask him how much he got by one of his plays. and even twenty new plays were staged in a season. 39. show that the theaters were almost never full. Dryden thought was much beneath the dignity of a poet. and 1s. The original Vere Street and Lincoln’s Inn Fields theaters apparently held no more than four or five hundred spectators. Mr. who declined to demean himself by pestering his wealthy friends and acquaintances. and might not even use it. The Lives of the Poets. and before a full house.39 A patron could pay any sum for a ticket. so very likely they were not packed in the 1660s either. 5:328–29.” Northamptonshire Record Office ASR 103. which appeared astonishing to Mr. that by his last play he cleared seven hundred pounds. We can be reasonably sure that playwrights collected the gross. Dryden. by making applications to persons of distinction: a degree of servility which perhaps Mr. and might hope to sell some tickets to patrons and friends for more than face value. 2s. in the first gallery. constructed in the early 1670s. Dummer. the playwright might receive as much as ₤80—if the play was staged at all. Advertisement Concerning the Poor Actors (London. For a documentary example of the practice.e. in the boxes. and other Hands [i. Mr. . a playwright pretty much needed to get a new play successfully staged every year. Southern was industrious to draw all imaginable profits from his poetical labours. The playwright could of course sell his script to a publisher. 1660–1740 501 4s.38 Later figures. 6d.” For more than fifteen years from 22 February 1748 she records a guinea to “Mrs Clive” at the time of her benefit. The ₤700 figure must be regarded with skepticism. in the pit. (London. very steep charges. The secret is. Dryden being a little importunate to know. Cibber. even though the cash value was only four or five shillings—quadruple or quintuple the actual price. but the number per year varies drastically. even at benefits. The “Lady” was a Mrs. fifteen.. For this phrase and practice. 6d. “Mr. Dorset Garden and Drury Lane. The expression “by guineas” employed in this context in the eighteenth century means that the purchaser gave a guinea for the ticket. 40. When the union of 1682 38. and often sold his tickets at a very high price. however. whose husband gave her sums from ₤125 to more than ₤200 a year “for my own expences. for lengthy periods. 1709). that he was really ashamed to inform him. Southern was not beneath the drudgery of sollicitation. Robert Shiels]. But Mr. 5 vols. he plainly told him. When the King’s and Duke’s Companies were competing fiercely in the mid-1670s. Mr.40 To be assured of eating. 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. to which he answered. This was essentially impossible. 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.

in 1692 and ₤11 1s. but seems to have got only a pittance in comparison with playwriting.” 10–15. Schoenbaum. how many playwrights actually managed to get plays written and produced with such regularity. rev. Behn and Otway led notoriously hardscrabble existences. 3d ed. Durfey was a songwriter. For a convenient list of all plays at issue. Insofar as fragmentary figures may be relied upon. John Dryden (26). 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. Without those special cases. Settle earned what he could from City Pageants. the average falls to ₤109. Elkanah Settle (13). Dryden returned to playwriting only after 1688. Thomas Otway (9). and new plays remained difficult to get produced until the actors’ rebellion and the re-establishment of a second company in 1695. For the years 1728–37 the average drops to ₤79 (with a range from ₤6 to ₤315). though only four plays earned their authors less than ₤50. but Shadwell himself was debarred from play production between 1681 and 1688 because of his Whig politics. Sylvia Stoler Wagonheim (London. Milhous and Hume. Settle spent thirty years in poverty after he fell out of favor with the public about 1680. 975–1700.43 Shadwell’s actress wife must have earned a substantial income in the 1670s. 122. A ₤50-benefit per annum would have provided subsistence for a Carolean playwright. . Edward Ravenscroft (12). Aphra Behn (20 plays). 1989). John Crowne (19).41 The actual benefit receipts known after 1714 for Lincoln’s 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. but they suggest that only on the rarest occasions did playwrights’ benefits attract genuinely full houses—a pattern that continues right through to the end of the eighteenth century. see Alfred Harbage. hume terminated competition.502 robert d. Nathaniel Lee (13). the managers reduced the total to an average of four per year for the rest of the decade. Almost no one but insiders managed to get plays staged by the United Company. We must ask. but would probably have had a hard time supporting himself as a playwright after the union of the two acting compa41. Thomas Durfey (26). when he lost his lucrative posts as Poet Laureate and Historiographer Royal (and complained bitterly about digging in exhausted mines). 6d. 1910). 43. Annals of English Drama. however. 6d.42 (Drury Lane was a far more prosperous theater until the mid-1720s. 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. S. though one could not have dressed for appearances at court or maintained a family with any social dignity on such a sum.) These are not such meager amounts. which might have supplied a modest but decent living. see Frank C. By implication. and playwrights may have done substantially better there. largely because of the ₤491 earned by Fenton for Mariamne and the ₤494 by Gay for The Beggar’s Opera (the most successful play of its era). 46. “Playwrights’ Remuneration. He received ₤2 3s. and Nahum Tate (8) probably could have contrived to live for substantial periods on their earnings from playwriting. Brown. 42. Lee spent much of the 1680s in a madhouse. Elkanah Settle (Chicago. The average is ₤154 for 1721–28. in 1703. Thomas Shadwell (20). and even veteran professional playwrights such as Dryden and Shadwell did not average anything like a play per year. 125.

Only twelve writers among a hundred and fifty wrote more than six plays in the half-century at issue. and a bit of luck. esp. 44. Dramatists did not enjoy a safe income. The Profession of English Letters (London. but only two playwrights got a play staged annually for anything like a decade—Susanna Centlivre (15 plays from 1700 to 1718) and Henry Fielding (18 plays—including afterpieces and fringe productions—in eight seasons prior to the Licensing Act). Seventy-one of the professionally produced playwrights wrote only a single staged play. and later David Garrick. quite rightly says that before 1642 and after 1660 “the theatre provided the first fruitful soil in which a profession of letters took root. 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. Nonetheless. Saunders. playwriting became an occasional and largely amateur enterprise and stayed that way until the 1780s. 1660–1740 503 nies. industry. 68 and 113. Fielding did make a living out of playwriting in the 1730s (partly at Drury Lane. W. Some 430 new plays were staged by known writers between 1700 and 1750 (including afterpieces). After the 1682 theatrical union. 1964). and when Saunders says of the mid-eighteenth century that “the theatre was prosperous enough to provide a living wage. but he was both a clergyman and a journalistic pamphleteer. The situation changed radically for the worse after the union of 1682 and basically stayed bad. W. James Miller had half a dozen plays staged in the thirties. doing hackwork as well and joining the army in mid-career.” This largely ceased to be true after the 1682 union. Centlivre’s husband held a position as cook in the royal household at ₤60 per annum. and more. Charles Johnson had sixteen plays staged over a thirty-year period. The new union engineered by Vanbrugh in 1708 terminated all serious competition until John Rich reopened a second theater in 1714. with as many as four companies competing actively in London in the 1730s. but could scrounge an insecure livelihood of sorts from the theater. . Farquhar wrung a bare living out of plays. Saunders. 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. for example. A number of Carolean playwrights appear to have been able to earn a living from their trade for substantial stretches of time. and twentyfive more wrote only two. given talent.the economics of culture in london. but this state of affairs was abruptly terminated by the Licensing Act of 1737. The playwrights who consistently profited the most were (not coincidentally) managers—Colley Cibber in the period under consideration. because it flatly contradicts long-codified assumptions. J. but operating his own pick-up company at the Little Haymarket in 1730 and 1731 and again in 1736 and 1737). but many of them were dismal flops—and he took to running a tavern in Covent Garden.” he is simply wrong. The astounding sixtytwo-night run of The Beggar’s Opera in 1728 triggered a theatrical boom.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. J. for the writers who were prepared to write to formula. but Rich’s company barely stayed afloat for the first decade of its existence. This is a very important conclusion.

while a principal at the Red Bull probably got something closer to ₤40.. received ₤169 for acting in 1675–76 (plus. (₤2) per week certainly received a living wage from the roughly thirty weeks of the theater season.. and a 60s. a three-quarter shareholder got ₤126 15s. ₤15 in the latter. what of actors? Unlike playwrights. Betterton. his managerial and theater-rent income). 8d.. the beneficiary could wind up 45. This discussion is deeply indebted to Judith Milhous. The Profession of Player in Shakespeare’s Time 1590–1642 (Princeton. 50s. Information about payment of actors prior to 1642 is extremely sketchy. 1682–1692. shareholders’ incomes fluctuated with company profit. “The Duke’s Company’s Profits. while the hireling got ₤90. 1695–1708 (Carbondale.45 After 1660 the system of actor-sharers and hirelings continued in both companies.J.47 A single-share member received that sum. Except for rare “free” benefits. Anyone at 40s.. but we do now know that in the mid-seventies each of the twenty acting shares in the Duke’s Company was worth ₤50 to ₤60 per annum. One result was the actors’ rebellion of 1694. which might be advantageous—or not. 48. the same shareholder received only ₤52 10s. and 10s. in the former season.” Theatre Research International 7 (1981–82): 37–53. Ill. which led to the re-establishment of a severely undercapitalized second company as an actor-cooperative at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. In 1682–83 (a really good season). per week during the season (about thirty weeks) or between ₤7 10s.. per acting day) to 25s. Figures for the King’s and Duke’s companies are much less complete. though ₤61 was for management and ₤231 represented his dividends as holder of three building-proprietor’s shares in the Dorset Garden Theatre. hireling would have had ₤19 5s. who held 3. and ₤15 per annum—sums that presumably needed to be supplemented by strolling during the summers or by non-theatrical work. but it suggests that in a good season in the mid-1630s a sharer in the King’s Men may have earned as much as ₤180. and the actor might make a great deal of money. Thomas Betterton earned ₤461 in 1682–83. See Judith Milhous. 47. 55–56. of course. Thomas Betterton and the Management of Lincoln’s Inn Fields. 46. “United Company Finances. At the very top of the scale and beyond. management was guaranteed its expenses. At the bottom end of the scale. (the last sum being deemed roughly equivalent to a threequarter acting share).504 robert d. If unlucky. 1979). the 10s. N. and 60s. The United Company’s salary scale ran in steps from 10s.. 106–12. they were unquestionably both professional and dependent upon the theater for their livelihood.25 shares. interrupted by mourning for Charles II).48 Another result—one whose impact affected the theater for more than a century—was 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. Sharing actors’ profits were so poor that the sharers chose to go on salary.” Theatre Notebook 32 (1978): 76–88. See Gerald Eades Bentley. Between 1687 and 1693 outside investors (“adventurers”) took control of the United Company and tried to improve profits by squeezing actors’ salaries and perquisites. 1984).46 Under this system. 1675–1677. 40s. per week (1s. a three-quarter shareholder proportionately less. . Hirelings appear to have received between 5s. See Judith Milhous. In 1684–85 (a bad season. but salaries were systematically shortpaid. salaried actor ₤115 10s. hume Contrariwise.

show that Robert Wilks earned ₤168 (including a fee for management) and added ₤90 from his benefit.53 For the latter. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. and performers were left with virtually no choice but to accept what they were offered or leave for Dublin.the economics of culture in london. Advertisement Concerning the Poor Actors. The National Archives. to ₤51 18s. and they were probably poor. 50. Baggs. but by the early 1720s the two managements had decided to cooperate rather than compete. for plays. “The Silencing of Drury Lane in 1709. Occasionally. “The Origins of the Actor Benefit in London. for opera in English. and ₤2 12s. F. Fragmentary records from a lawsuit concerning a fringe opera and theater venture in 1732–33 show daily receipts from ₤10 5s. 51. plus ₤51 from a benefit.51 The re-establishment of a second company in 1714 led to the employment of more actors. 54. plus ₤62 from her benefit.52 Some salaries were actually reduced in the course of the 1720s. Hume. but usually such productions ran only a few nights and disappeared. Colley Cibber the same. but did little to improve their conditions of employment. since the company fell into disarray. Had the Licensing Act not been imposed. Richard Estcourt had a ₤5 per week salary from which he earned ₤112 plus ₤51 from his benefit. “The London Theatre Cartel of the 1720s: British Library Additional Charters 9306 and 9308. 53. 1527. but with the exception of Goodman’s Fields we may safely assume that they did not provide a livelihood for their members. fiercely resisted doing.” Theatre Research International 9 (1984): 99–111. See Judith Milhous and Robert D.” Music and Letters 78 (1997): 502–31.49 Figures published in 1709 by Zachary Baggs. The cartel agreement was long known by rumor. 1988). Christopher Rich. Initial relations between Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Drury Lane were quite hostile. a fringe troupe scored a hit at the Little Haymarket (as Fielding did on four notable occasions). “J. making ₤70 in just fourteen weeks. The unlicensed companies and nonce troupes that came into being after the theatrical boom triggered by The Beggar’s Opera in 1728 have left almost no records behind them. 1728–1737 (Oxford. something the proprietor. This season was shortened by almost a third by mourning for Prince George and an order of silence—making salary totals far lower than normal. the Drury Lane treasurer. but they never did so in the eighteenth century. fringe theaters might eventually have offered alternative venues and a living wage to performers. Anne Oldfield got ₤4 per week plus perquisites. but its provisions were not printed and analyzed until the 1980s. 52.50 These are very decent incomes if paid in full. 1660–1740 505 owing management money. for each performance—not a living wage unless paid virtually year-round. E 112/1193. Hume. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. provoking the rebellion that led to the extended walkout of 1733 and the importation of strollers as strikebreakers.” Theatre Survey 26 (1985): 21–37. Hume. . Salaries are mostly unknown for Drury Lane in the 1730s. See Robert D. In consequence. 155–64. to ₤22 9s.54 49. Henry Fielding and the London Theatre. Hume. the managers signed a secret cartel agreement. Lampe and English Opera at the Little Haymarket in 1732–3. His attempt to enforce a profit-sharing “tax” on actors’ benefits led to an explosion that got him shut down for five years.” Theatre Journal 32 (1980): 427–47. sixteen men and women were paid a total of ₤4 9s. Hume. 6d. See Robert D. 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. no.

though only four earned more than 2s. or less). Mass. however. but ₤1 13s.57 Total income for each this year was probably about ₤2. Any good Marxist (or even a wobbly one) must rejoice in the evil example of the long-eighteenth-century London theater. 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. 6d. 6d.” Theatre Journal 55 (2003): 481–508. per night. or ₤2 per week during the season—about ₤60 per annum. “John Rich’s Covent Garden Account Books for 1735–36. 8d. To raise capital to finance buildings and operations.” Theatre Notebook 45 (1991): 16–30 at 22. the highest “performer’s” salary was paid by John Rich to himself (as Harlequin in pantomimes)— a stunning ₤3 6s. an important and responsible part of the administration. The Commonwealth and Restoration Stage (Cambridge. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. This was an 55. Seventeen people earned a per diem stipend ranging from 10s. 20. 1–14. “The Economics of Theatrical Dance in Eighteenth-Century London. 4d.. per diem (but almost all of them 5s. see Judith Milhous and Robert D. see Judith Milhous and Robert D. possess nearly complete salary information for Covent Garden in 1735–36. If the patent duopoly were enforced (as ultimately it was until the nineteenth century).050 pounds. Hume. getting ₤1. Occasionally actors did succeed in becoming owner/managers (as Wilks. Cibber. Some forty house servants earned between 1s.350 each. chaps. Davenant sold off about half the stock in the Duke’s Company in the 1660s. but when this happened they showed no disposition to share the wealth.” Theatre Survey 31 (1990): 200–241. See Leslie Hotson. while Killigrew had to make similar if more complicated arrangements for the King’s Company.. see Judith Milhous. per diem or ₤20 per week. Hume. per diem in 1722. (or perhaps a little higher). fols. dance offerings consumed 20 to 25 percent of the total performer budget at John Rich’s theaters. Drury Lane fell into the hands of the Triumvirs soon after the silencing of Rich in 1709. and Doggett/Booth—and later Garrick—did at Drury Lane). “Memos to the Treasurer at Drury Lane. “Charles Killigrew’s ‘Abstract of Title to the Playhouse’: British Library Add. but most fell in the vicinity of ₤50 or ₤60.56 Actors retained managerial control throughout most of the 1670s and 1680s. and Doggett split a company profit of ₤4. . 1715–1730. In 1712–13 Wilks. hume We do.506 robert d. MS. but Christopher Rich’s open assumption of power in 1693 totally altered the operational nature of London theater. to 8s.55 Principals earned ₤200 to ₤300 per annum in salary. Unknown at this date. and 5s. By a factor of two. Hume. On the King’s Company’s rather entangled ownership arrangements (especially as regarded its theater). to about 30s. 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). 56. 5 and 6. plus acting salary and benefit (at least ₤300 more per head) and managerial salary.” Theatre History Studies 6 (1986): 57–71. Over a full thirty-week season that would amount to ₤600. and from the summer of 1710 the only competition they faced was from a very shaky opera company. received 6s. The treasurer. 57. Some forty members of the company earned from 1s. Cibber. 4d. 1928). Those who own the means of production profit greatly at the expense of their unlucky employees.726. For more than a generation. and of course as principal owner he received most of the company’s annual profit as well. which is ₤10 per week or upwards of another ₤300 for the season. Benefit profits for privileged members ran from deficits to above ₤100.000.

fols. but what they earned from these sources is very thinly documented in this period. Vanbrugh probably got his figures from Betterton (a vastly experienced manager). ₤200 to ₤300 or more by the 1720s and 1730s). Garry Bowers. Vanbrugh planned a fancier. 1660–1740 507 exceptionally good season. Dr. Neb. much my seniors”).000. The projected annual budget for 180 performance days was ₤9.. each Triumvir must have taken home about ₤1. and hence made no provision for actor benefits. two). Grant (Lincoln. not for the advantage of playwrights or performers. with renewed competition). and twenty orchestral musicians were to get ₤1 per week (which Eccles would presumably have collected as well). A playwright earned nothing from his or her play after its first week (or at best. while bottom-enders and house servants were working for artisan wages. Hume. The benefit system gave promise of windfall profits that were rarely achieved. The top four or five performers in a theater company could expect to make fairly good money (with a prosperous benefit.60 Six singers were penciled in at a total of ₤150 (plus ₤200 allocated for “when they sing”). multiply by two or three hundred and you arrive at a fairly spectacular modern equivalent— always remembering too that there was no income tax. “Profits at Drury Lane. The United Company had grossed an average of some ₤47 per diem from 1682 to 1692. 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. Memoirs of Dr. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. for each performance as a “supernumerary” member of the Drury Lane orchestra in the 1740s (as were “others. even if it coined money for the company that staged it and stayed in the repertory for decades. Upper-end rewards were.000 (or ₤50 per diem). and Kerry S. not paid year-round. The plan survives in the National Archives LC 7/3. . 1988). 1726–1769. multi-media company and expected to exploit a 58. 45. As music director the distinguished composer John Eccles was to have a ₤40 salary.the economics of culture in london. The musicians undoubtedly supplemented their theater salaries from teaching and concerts. Burney reports that he received 5s. The take from an author’s 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. 161–62. but mid-rank performers were lucky to collect much more than ₤100 even toward the end of this period. 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. ed. 1713–1716.” Theatre Research International 14 (1989): 241–55. Slava Klima. There is no imaginable way to calculate what portion of the musicians’ annual income such payments constituted.58 Multiply these figures by one hundred and you get a very decent annual income in present-day terms. however. Charles Burney. and they are highly realistic. Between 1660 and 1740 the London theaters were increasingly operated for the benefit of their proprietors. 60. 59. Seven dancers were to get salaries from ₤20 to ₤60 (with another ₤250 to be divided among them on a perperformance basis). but even in 1715–16 (a poor one.59 He intended to pay salaries in full. a hundred-to-one shot.

he could buy any number up to 100 copies at 16s. each. 11. In the period at issue. 1966). Known receipt totals for Drury Lane a decade later suggest that Vanbrugh might reasonably have hoped to pocket ₤3. 1696–1712: A Bibliographical Study. see John Barnard. John Feather. 63.500 copies. His scheme was never realized. “London Publishing. the third less so. each (which if resold to friends at list price would gain him ₤25).000 copies. 1640–1660. A History of British Publishing (London. (25 of them). eds. but in conception it is very much in line with other managements of this period. and ₤3—law books and a book of maps. see R. Authors sometimes accepted (or bought at a discount) a substantial number of copies. the numbers remain low. Even in the middle and later eighteenth century. B. Two are well known in book-history circles. 62. hume well-managed monopoly. F. 4th ser. which sharply limited the sums publishers were willing to risk in buying manuscripts.000 a year if he had been able to absorb the rival company and operate without competition. For a learned Latin theological work to be sold at ₤1. 4 (Cambridge. The first is that because the royalty system was virtually unknown. (Cambridge. esp. Only seven were offered at ₤1 or more. McKerrow. and John Barnard and D. since publishers gave other booksellers a trade discount of 15 to 20 percent. Reading Nation. Alternatively. 13 (1933): 184–87. .. 1738–1785. or the national culture. The Cambridge University Press.. “A Publishing Agreement of the late Seventeenth Century. The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Clair. Theaters were not designed to benefit playwrights. notably D. Overall receipts were even lower than they might seem. 1988). authors almost always sold the “perpetual” rights to their work to publishers for a single cash payment up front. making the net on a ₤1 book 16 to 17s.61 The second is that print runs were small.508 robert d. though large numbers of one. On changes in publishing at the start of our period. The cheapest titles listed went for 6d. 196 cost less than 4s.and 61. For particulars of one such case.” Studies in Bibliography 20 (1967): 89–111 at 104. 1991).63 A few price statistics may be helpful. but it probably proved quite profitable for some writers. To judge from the contracts preserved in the Upcott Collection (discussed below). but 97 percent of the 514 books he printed between 1738 and 1785 were issued in editions of no more than 2. most editions appear to have run between 500 and 1. 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. which lessened his risk but also his putative profit. chap. “William Strahan’s Ledgers: Standard Charges for Printing. See Patricia Hernlund. For vivid documentation of the impact of prices on sales in a later period. and 139 cost no more than 2s. performers. McKenzie. The most expensive were ₤2 10s. Other arrangements were sometimes made.” The Library.” Book History 4 (2001): 1–16. F. Of these. but rather to fill the pockets of the entrepreneurs who built and managed them. Keith Maslen and John Lancaster (London. 2 vols. 236 books were advertised in the Term Catalogues. which they were then free to sell for whatever they could get. the author was given 25 free copies and the right to buy 100 copies at 15s. For background in this realm I am drawing generally on several sources.62 The third point is that the price per copy had to be kept low on most books. ed. McKenzie. In Easter and Trinity terms 1670. see St. 2002). The Bowyer Ledgers. or they would have found very few buyers. Strahan was a major printer. vol. this was not very common. The most common price by far was 1s.

but they were probably not worth advertising to the general public. 3/6. G. James McLaverty (Oxford. Of Poetry and Politics: New Essays on Milton and His World (Binghamton. “The Poet in the Marketplace: Milton and Samuel Simmons. 4/6.. Hume. 1995). and Prior reflect subscription sets flogged hard by writers with extraordinary social connections. 67.Y. Pope. The most common price was 6d. The poem was big and expensive. forthcoming. For a masterly account of Pope’s extraordinary earnings. The last two were Tonson’s Virgil and Shakespeare editions. N..” in P. chaps. 249–62 at 262. Profession of English Letters.’: Humphrey Moseley’s Serial Publication of Octavo Play Collections. Fourteen were offered at this price (five of them reprints). ed.. 1–2. see Don-John Dugas and Robert D.. 175–90. that Dryden got ₤1.67 The rates for Fielding reflect not only his 64. 66. and 5s. eds.000 guineas from the subscribers to his 1718 Poems (though what he actually netted is not clear to me). Prior collected a munificent 4. Much sympathy has been lavished on Milton. 1981). As Peter Lindenbaum has pointed out. We know. and Fielding made ₤700 from Tom Jones and ₤1.66 These are. however.. and that Pope made something in the vicinity of ₤10.64 More expensive books could be had (many of them imported). and one at 30s.200 for his translation of Virgil. On the booming chapbook industry of the late seventeenth century.—which is a dizzying pound and a half. These figures are among those reported by Saunders. and repeated by later scholars. if they appeared and sold out).the economics of culture in london.” in Martha Woodmansee and Peter Jaszi. see “Milton’s Contract. For comparison. four at 12s. N. one at 15s. of which 82 (fully half ) cost no more than 1s. and in this company they stand out like sore thumbs. Pope and the Early-Eighteenth-Century Book Trade.. the poet obscure and disreputable. .” that “Milton had enough inherited wealth not to need to make a living from his pen”.000 from Amelia. however. (40 titles) and 58 of the advertised works cost that sum or less. Tonson’s 1709 edition (and his 1714 duodecimo reprint to follow) were expensive volumes aimed at a premium market. see David Foxon. represented a normal top price for a book for which substantial sales were anticipated. and the figures for Dryden. We should note that Millar was badly burned by the terms he gave Fielding for Amelia. let us analyze the parallel Term Catalogue lists in 1709 at the time of the publication of Tonson’s “Rowe” Shakespeare in six octavo volumes. The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature (Durham.. as Lindenbaum observes in another version of “Milton’s Contract. 65. these were not unreasonable terms for the time. relatively few books were priced above 2s. I would judge that 6s. One was priced at 7/6. among the most famous writers of their times.000 from his Homer. 104 cost 2s. For detailed analysis. 1991). . . see Margaret Spufford’s very helpful Small Books and Pleasant Histories: Popular Fiction and Its Readership in SeventeenthCentury England (London.C. In 1709.” Publishing History 38 (1995): 5–21. A smattering of titles (four to nine per price bracket) were offered at 3s. Far from making Shakespeare cheap and widely available. or less. who received ₤10 for the first edition of Paradise Lost in 1667 (with another ₤5 due for each of two further impressions. of course. rev. 1994). “‘Give Me the Sociable Pocket-Books. “The Dissemination of Shakespeare in 1714..65 Let us address the issue of what authors actually earned from their books. 131–40. 1660–1740 509 two-penny publications were being issued. Swift received ₤200 for Gulliver’s Travels (a price negotiated by the canny Pope). 4s. see Paulina Kewes. Stanwood. We should also remember. On a mid-seventeenth-century attempt to produce relatively inexpensive “cultural” books.” Studies in Bibliography. Of 152 titles advertised. as has long been claimed.

each. 1974). and a few translations.) Relatively few of the Lintot items are pamphlets and occasional pieces. including large ones. cheap books that were issued. ₤252 for Fiddes’s Body of Divinity. How representative are these surviving remnants? I would not care to venture even a guess—but actual figures in numerous cases are better than pure speculation. 38. we have two sources. (London.030 for the remaining 140 books. This amounts to about ₤20 per book. ₤105 for Jacob’s Accomplished Conveyancer). I say “roughly” because there are cases in which no sum is listed. (If we look to Pepys. Judith Milhous and I hope soon to publish an analysis of the whole run of its contracts. 70. see Harry Ransom. hume celebrity but also the growing mid-century book market. MSS. 9 vols. Add. Marjorie Plant estimates that ₤4 or ₤5 was a standard fee for purchase of copyright early in the eighteenth century. The Upcott Collection runs into the early nineteenth century.200) and some payments for correcting and editing. but neither should we fail to distinguish between a meaningful sum of money (which ₤5 was) and a livelihood (which it was not. and given the large number of small. Of these.69 The other is the famous “Upcott Collection” (British Library. 8:293–304. and in the case of the Upcott Collection we have a seemingly random set of agreements deriving from a relatively small number of publishers. Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century. 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 1701–31. that give us many specifics..71 What do we learn from a comparison with the Upcott materials? From the first three decades of the eighteenth century. John Nichols. it represents a dinner party. 1812–15). If we accept Samuel Johnson’s bare-bones estimate of ₤30 per annum for subsistence.70 Extracting the figures produces interesting results. London. . agreements for twenty-three original books survive in that collection. 3d ed.510 robert d. even in 1700).728–30). such a figure does not seem implausible. “The Rewards of Authorship in the Eighteenth Century. Marjorie Plant. for which the publishers paid authors some ₤678 for copy- 68. Excluding payments to Pope (which total more than ₤4. then ₤5 amounts to two months’ food and shelter. which includes full texts of more than 80 author-publisher agreements for the first half of the eighteenth century. or a complicated deal does not reduce satisfactorily to a single figure. small ones.68 What of “ordinary” earnings? Fortunately. 76. the author received between ₤5 and ₤10 15s. Lintot records payment of roughly ₤3. 69. both underexploited.” University of Texas Studies in English 18 (1938): 47–66. for example. We should not sneer at a ₤5 payment. Both have often been cited. but neither (so far as I can determine) has ever been systematically analyzed. in fifty-seven instances. The English Book Trade: An Economic History of the Making and Sale of Books (1939. If we subtract nine books for which exceptionally high prices were paid (for example. and less than ₤5 in thirty-one. For a still useful overview of the earnings of “name” writers.026 to authors for 149 books. Bernard Lintot was a publisher who produced quite a few upper-end books— Pope’s Homer. or about ₤14 10s. 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). then Lintot paid about ₤2. 71.

The standard retail price was 1s. Dr. warehousing. The range was wide. 200. 1660–1740 511 right (an average of about ₤29 each). 74. poems. history. In 1660 imported paper was taxed at 1s. or about ₤25 per book. .. To judge from extant records. 6d. Combining the two categories. Upcott includes a small number of payments for revisions. per pound. Of the books reported by Lintot I would classify fifty-four as broadly “cultural” (counting both originals and translations). in the late seventeenth century. paper. Timing could be crucial for the author of a play. Another eleven agreements for translations of various sorts total about ₤100. and law books. Let us therefore consider the basic economics of play publication. we cannot be astonished that Rowe received ₤50 15s. Sewell received ₤1 1s. and indexing. for his pamphlet of Observations on the Tragedy of Jane Shore (Lintot). respectively.the economics of culture in london. 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). I would classify some fortytwo books from the Upcott Collection as “cultural” in this period. Lillo would probably have received precious little for The London Merchant in 1731. Both sources include books of many kinds—poems. religion. and so was paper. They brought ₤1. or about ₤27 if we include translations in the calculation. English Book Trade. Contrariwise. whereas James Moore Smythe somehow blandished Lintot out of ₤105 for his mildly successful comedy The Rival Modes (1727). proofreading. Given the considerable theatrical success of Jane Shore and Jane Grey. Type was expensive. and overheads would have come to upwards of half this sum. Money could of course be earned from hackwork. plays were unquestionably an author’s best hope for making a substantial amount of money from literary work—unless he or she were sufficiently connected and celebrated to make a killing out of subscription publication. plays.379.74 A more likely print run was 500.401. We may ask how payments for elite-culture books compare to those in other realms. though the figure for eighteen books in the 1740s falls back to ₤26. and ₤75 5s. the figures are about ₤31 for original books. philosophy. and philosophy. mathematical and scientific treatises. for them. should one wait and hope for theatrical triumph? Killigrew profited considerably by selling before the premiere. a sum that rose to 1s. but how could Lintot have imagined that Captain Killigrew’s vapid Chit-Chat (1718) was worth the ₤84 he paid for it?73 Until the 1740s. history. then after discounts to booksellers the publisher would probably gross something like ₤60.72 Their copyrights brought some ₤1. ink.500 copies were printed and could be sold at 1s. or some ₤33 per book. or some ₤9 each. The answer is that on average they so do quite favorably. but when he finally sold copyright in 1735 the price was a munificent ₤105. we find that twenty-eight original books brought about ₤35 each. Legislation in the 1690s (8 and 9 William c. geography. see Plant. Under this heading I have counted plays. the thirty-four books brought about ₤23 on average. translations from the classics. how-to-learn foreign language primers. If we look to the 1730s. for long plays and especially attractive ones. the cost of typesetting. If we assume that as many as 1. These run from one to ten guineas. 7) raised the duty on paper and books to 25 percent of the value. Looking at the contents of the Upcott Collection for the whole of the period 1701–49. Should one sell before the premiere for fear of failure? Alternatively. 73. 6d. history. literary criticism. 72.

76. D. “Booksellers’ Sales of Copyright: Aspects of the London Book Trade 1718–1768” (Ph. His figures imply that printing. This does not allow for purchase of Defoe’s right in his copy. for the copyright of The Recruiting Officer in 1706. For the years 1700–1740. paper. hume with a corresponding reduction in costs and net. the potential gross from the first edition went up to about ₤90. 5th ser. A publisher might hope. we may turn to K. with something on the order of ₤50 as profit. price and 15d. Maslen demonstrates that as many as 6. see Terry Belanger. The average was about ₤22 (ignoring the aberration of Cato).. Clearly the scale went up. and if it sold slowly he might not see his money back for years. For analysis of such publisher-to-publisher deals. Numerous examples are to be found in volume 3 of the Upcott Collection. 1970). If we assume that Defoe received ₤50–₤100 (and less is possible). and ₤30 an excellent one. 6d. Columbia University. British Library. Susanna Centlivre got ₤10 for The Busie Body in 1709. of course.77 Anecdotal evidence suggests that ₤10 was considered a good price for a play in the reign of Charles II. 6d. for Addison’s Cato (1713).75 With the price at 1s. diss. 77. 38.000 before 1750 to 750 and even 500 in the second half of the century. the foremost writer of his time.” esp. and split into tiny shares and resold yet again decade after decade. the publisher would have to figure on selling about 1. “Playwrights’ Remuneration. 1719.400 copies had been sold. we have precise copyright sale prices for an astonishing eighty-three plays. and “Booksellers’ Trade Sales. 6d. Upwards of 700 more sales would be required to meet costs. Copyright of all sorts of books was sold and resold among publishers. We know that Dryden. Maslen provides figures to show that normal edition quantities for novels actually fell from 1.680 copies just to cover the payment to the author.76 With this background in mind. . 75.” The Library. for Elkanah Settle’s The City Ramble (1711) to ₤107 10s. for lucrative reprints (on which the author was normally owed nothing). ₤50 was extremely unusual. Even bad plays with poor sales might have some value as part of a collected edition (Steele’s The Lying Lover is an example). see “Edition Quantities for Robinson Crusoe. receipts per copy (after trade discounts to booksellers). At this time ₤20 was a good price for a play. By way of comparison. or overheads. MS.000 copies were sold at a very stiff 5s. I.” The Library. 35–43 and Appendix VII. In a few extraordinary instances in the first half of the eighteenth century. advertising. for ten afterpieces just ₤8. publishers paid as much as ₤105 for plays (Cibber’s The Non-Juror is one instance).200. 24 (1969): 145–50.. Small wonder that Farquhar received ₤16 2s. which reduced both initial investment and potential profits—but also greatly reduced risk. Of course if a play failed to sell as anticipated the publisher could be significantly out of pocket.. The following comments are digested from Milhous and Hume. Add. The ₤30 he got for The Beaux Stratagem the next year is evidence of Lintot’s faith in its sales appeal. so the publisher could not hope to make anything until about 2.000 profit for its publisher. 1718–1768. we may deduce that the publisher’s profit was no more than ₤400–₤500.. got ₤20 for Troilus and Cressida in 1679 and 30 guineas for Cleomenes in 1692.730. we may consider what is known of the sale of copyright of plays—which is a great deal between 1700 and 1740. price.512 robert d. 5th ser. Assuming the 1s. Maslen’s classic reconsideration of the claim that the sensational success of Robinson Crusoe made a ₤1.D. Between 1714 and 1737 the average received for forty-seven mainpieces was ₤52. and standard binding must have cost about ₤665 against total possible receipts of about ₤1. 30 (1975): 281–302. a major theatrical triumph. Prices for mainpieces in the early years of the century range from a dismal ₤3 10s. Publishers often chose to split the copyright two or more ways.

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. and the publisher’s cut.the economics of culture in london. Four decades later. 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. chap. That the market for publishing plays improved substantially between the 1670s and the 1720s is obvious. If Bond’s figures and my further guesswork are valid. see The Spectator. to seek other ways of making ends meet. How this was divided between the publisher and Steele we do not know. a far higher proportion than one might expect. Bond. Quotation from Steele in No. Exactly what Steele earned is. The cost of distribution is unknown. but they take us only so far. (Oxford. but must significantly have reduced the net on the 1d. 109. Johnson is said to have made 2 guineas for each Rambler essay (₤4 4s. and cultural journalism almost none. The gross might have been as high as the ₤37 Bond calculates. On the impact of the Stamp Act. 5 vols. Ibid. Profession of English Letters. to ₤1 per thousand copies for printing and paper. journalism offered minimal possibilities. paper.78 This continued to be true throughout the eighteenth century. ed. The Tatler: The Making of a Literary Journal (Cambridge. retail price.”80 The big money earned from the Tatler and the Spectator was made from the collected reprints that were issued steadily throughout the century. Feather. 1:xxv–xxvii. 39–40. therefore. and some small measure of the gains trickled down to authors. see Saunders.81 Despite the success of these journals (and that of the Gentleman’s Magazine two 78. 1660–1740 513 ranging from as little as 5 guineas for a mainpiece (Lynch’s 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). Bond. If we estimate ₤7–₤9 for production and half or a third of a penny per copy for distribution. . 2. Prior to 1700. since the gross receipts amounted to no more than the author’s alleged fee and would certainly not have covered printing. 142. per week). then the net profit would have amounted to anything from ₤9 to ₤17 per week. History of British Publishing. but it was not really a viable means of earning a living. Mass. The circulation of the Tatler went as high as 3. unfortunately. a matter of guesswork. 79. The appearance of the Tatler in 1709 started to change that.79 Costs of comparable periodicals appear to have run in the vicinity of 16s. Much less evident until the figures are calculated is that on average playwrights were earning approximately one-third of their income from publication. Playwriting sometimes yielded meaningful sums of money (and rare windfalls). then authors might have earned anything from ₤4 to ₤9 per week out of the Tatler. Plays were increasingly profitable to publishers. Neither do we know how much Steele paid Addison and other contributors or who got the money from advertisements.000 copies (though whether it stayed so high is not known).. distribution. 80. Writers lacking a private income or a non-literary profession had. Richmond P. 555. Bond does an excellent job of combining and analyzing relevant figures. which in the terms we have been contemplating is quite a lot of money. 1971). Richmond P. His figures cannot be right. Donald F.. 81. 1965).

Reprinted in Letters from the Westminster Journal (London. 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. “Fielding and the Licensing Act. For this illustration I am indebted to Juan Christian Pellicer. Circulation could vary widely. 7th ser. The London Book Trades. but early in its life it sold about 700. I need to call attention to some complexities in the realms of topicality. at which time Arthur Murphy was getting a guinea and a half per week as editor.” more than ₤200 of which had been paid by the source journals. A fine example in all three areas is John Philips’s Cyder.000 by 1730 (possibly higher). 1775–1800 (Folkstone. hume decades later) periodicals remained relatively few in number and mostly short-lived.” 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 Gentleman’s Magazine’s abridgments of essays from the weekly papers amount to unfair appropriation of material that had cost the newspapers some twenty guineas in “Copy-money”—that is.” 87. (London.” Cave gave the public greater “quantity” and “variety” than “any Book of the kind and price. 83. At 6d. His source is Old England.K. Cave avoided the “Stamp-duty. 1982). fell to around 4. Kent.” Huntington Library Quarterly 50 (1987): 379–93. 3 September 1748. The writer (Russell?) complains further that by publishing his magazine as a pamphlet.” The Library. Memoirs of the Society of Grub-Street..514 robert d. I owe this reference and the next to the generosity of Thomas Lockwood. Ian Maxted. 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. and secret subsidy. 1977). 2 vols. How these copies were deployed and with what advantage to Philips we can only guess.87 Philips’s poem celebrates the 1707 Union with Scotland and was written as a piece of Tory political propaganda under the patronage of Robert Harley. at least on average. Contributions to the Craftsman. 84. xiii–xiv. no. Table 9. The Craftsman is often said to have had a circulation of 10. sales did rise as high as 10. 1:xiii.000. Pellicer speculates (plausibly. and were back down to about 700 by 1753. . we may note that Fielding apparently earned 5s. See Thomas Lockwood. Simon Varey (Oxford. “Harleian Georgic from Tonson’s Press: The Publication of John Philips’s Cyder. 85.84 In the 1740s the Westminster Journal advertised for outside submissions “that fill up the whole Space usually allotted to Pieces of that Nature. U. 29 January 1708.82 Study of Maxted’s figures on periodical publication suggests to me that the importance of periodicals to writers’ livelihoods is basically a post-1750 phenomenon. published by Tonson in January 1708.. Tonson (a staunch Whig. In addition to this very handsome cash payment. 86. ed. but the financial and sociopolitical benefits were probably considerable. about half a guinea per issue.000 by 1735. 1737). he received one hundred large-paper presentation copies (probably bound in calf ) and two luxury dedication copies bound in Turkey leather. 4 (19 December 1741). See Lord Bolingbroke. 1747). per essay from the Champion in the later 1730s. contractual possibilities. By way of contrast. for a pamphlet of “three sheets and a half.86 Before ending this brief survey of what authors earned from sale of book copyright and journalism. 7 (2006): 185–98.83 We must also remember that the Tatler and the Spectator were the greatest periodical successes of their century.

and cost of such semi-operas. nature. From 1708. 1984). dancers. ed. Semi-operas were a special treat. 41–66. “The Multi-Media Spectacular on the Restoration Stage. The reported costs of the major semi-operas ranged from ₤800 to ₤4. 1660–1800 (Washington. . His company went broke in less than four months that spring. Early-eighteenth-century opera companies collapsed with monotonous regularity. King Arthur. Whether they were worth the cost and risk may be questioned. and very hard for an English person to break into. 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. Painting was a solo rather than a group activity. The fact remains. The secret service records for 1705 indicate a payment to him of “[o]ne hundred Pounds.C. D. 89. Philips was a distinguished imitator of Virgil in Miltonic blank verse. British Theatre and the Other Arts. This fact notwithstanding.000.” Shirley Strum Kenny. At times it generated huge cash flows and attracted extravagant patronage. which gave him an opera monopoly at the Haymarket.. ed. on the Battle of Blenheim. apparently a pen available for (discreet) hire. see Judith Milhous.89 Admission prices were apparently doubled at the time of premiere and raised by a shilling for revivals. however.the economics of culture in london.. but the beneficiaries were a few principal singers. as Our Royall Bounty for writing a Poem in Blank Verse. T/48/17. however.90 Principal singers tried 88. Opera impresarios may have had high hopes. On the scope. fol.. paintings were ferociously expensive. Hume (Carbondale. but acting company profits could pay for them and they were performed by the company’s usual actors. Since the usual annual receipts of the Duke’s and United Companies totaled around ₤10. The National Archives. but even at the bottom reaches of the profession. Ill. “opera” meant “semi-opera.” done by the regular theater companies in English with spoken dialogue. and Fairy-Queen (1690–92) were extremely elaborate productions that severely strained the finances of the United Company. see Vice Chamberlain Coke’s Theatrical Papers. probably given only a few times each season. this represented quite incredible investment in a very small number of extravaganzas. supplemented with extra singers. Purcell’s Prophetess. The Dryden-DavenantShadwell musicalized version of The Tempest (1674) was probably the most popular show of its time. and musicians. In the late seventeenth century. Ultra-Elite Culture: Opera and Painting Opera and painting provide a sharp contrast to other forms of elite culture. only a few painters found the profession lucrative. it was increasingly aimed at a very small group of potential customers. 90. that just as proprietors made most of the money out of theaters. 1706–1715.”88 What authors gained from their writing was not always the copyright payment alone. 1660–1740 515 political propaganda. 1982). Opera was expensive to produce and expensive to attend. Judith Milhous and Robert D. For extensive documentation and analysis. not a political hack writer. but they signally failed to exploit their performers. He was. booksellers were the principal beneficiaries of publication.000. 3 (cited by Pellicer).

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. and the presence of George I on the throne. who came again and again.516 robert d.000.” Music and Letters 67 (1986): 50–58. hume to demand as much as 700 guineas. Milhous and Hume. for balcony seats.943. 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). As of 1709 his terms were a guaranteed salary of 800 guineas. (Further details are not germane to my concerns in this essay. . and he wound up paying four principals ₤400 or more each for a total of only twenty-nine or possibly thirty performances. Experience proved that an opera company could perform only twice a week. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. top (double the regular theater price) could not bring income into line with costs. the company made no attempt to contain costs. “The Charter for the Royal Academy of Music. 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 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The relatively plebian nature of those venues and their patrons. so forty to fifty performances per season were as many as could be hoped for. The charter was only recently discovered and published.” 30. See Judith Milhous and Robert D.100. Earlier opera companies had a terrible time grossing ₤125 91. Because prices had to be stratospheric. 93.000.. and that they could afford to pay the principal castrato (Senesino) and the leading lady ₤1.000 per annum subsidy provided by the king himself. with seven secondary singers at salaries ranging from ₤300 to ₤1. the audience was of necessity ultra elite.91 Later companies fared little better. Hume. With so much money available. with a ₤1. The directors imagined that they would have a full house every night.) The cost of the company for the season of 1720–21 was probably around ₤14.147—a sum he absolutely could not afford. and to performance in English. They tended to get tired of a show after six or eight performances. Ibid. which necessitated a steady stream of expensive new productions.500 apiece. Vanbrugh’s successors in opera management decided that the answer was to import superstar castratos. Nicolini came to London in 1708. 6d. “New Light on Handel and The Royal Academy of Music in 1720. “Opera Salaries. so it comprised relatively few people. who did attract customers but also demanded unprecedented salaries. spent ₤4. plus perquisites and a benefit—an astounding figure when compared with the fraction of that sum earned by top actors for four times or more the number of performances. No account books or daily receipts for the venture survive.92 Even prices with an 8s. but recently discovered papers from the committee of directors give us some financial particulars. 94.” Theatre Journal 35 (1983): 149–67.94 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.) for pit and boxes and to a dizzying 5s. 92. Prices were raised to half a guinea (10s.090. Hume. After twenty-three performances Vanbrugh had received ₤2. produced a very different result.93 The venture was conceived at the time of the South Sea Bubble and reflected the unrealistic thinking then prevalent among speculators. and lost ₤1. 97–98.

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. Hunter’s groundbreaking article is one of the few serious attempts at analyzing the impact of economics on culture in this period. the entrepreneurial model never worked for any length of time.96 Some did not live in London and rarely or never went there. then and later. Today we might ask whether a couple would rather buy a Honda Civic or have a season subscription to the opera. 6d. by those prepared to sit among hoi polloi in the gallery). In London. Opera could be enjoyed occasionally as a treat by those willing to spend 10s. or African safaris.the economics of culture in london. Inventing Audiences: The Intersections of Class. Little is known of the finances of the successor company managed by Handel and Heidegger in the 1730s. 1660–1740 517 per night. The Royal Academy sometimes enjoyed packed houses. 96. See Judith Milhous and Robert D. Money. but only 140 in 1732–33 (about ₤73 per night). Huge sums of money flowed into opera companies—and out again. Buying paintings was definitely the privilege of those with substantially more disposable income. It charged similar prices. opera was usually mounted in a court theater. 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. Painting was a totally different kind of enterprise and an even more exclusive one. “Handel and Opera Management in London in the 1730s. was normally 20 guineas (₤21). see Robert D. massive capitalization notwithstanding. heavily subsidized by the local prince or duke. Hume. and History. 1732–1734. Italian opera kept dying and getting resuscitated in London during the eighteenth century. David Hunter. and the season rarely extended to forty nights. some were evidently not so enamored of opera as to be willing to pay ₤21 a season (let alone more for spouse and children). the price made it socially exclusive. For a more general account of the venture. opera companies benefited their principal singers. Music.” Music and Letters 67 (1986): 347–62. private jets.” Harvard Library Bulletin 26 (1978): 245–66. Hume.” Early Music 28 (2000): 32–49. For ₤50 one could buy a more than decent coach. Those already driving a Rolls Royce (or even a mere Mercedes) might well opt for opera—or for race horses. but inability to keep costs under control led to its bankruptcy and collapse in 1728. for a single ticket (or for 5s. not their proprietors. “Patronizing Handel. Management hoped to attract enough subscribers that they would not be dependent on nightly sales. and that for ordinary nights the walk-in trade could bring as little as ₤54 7s. and it attracted a clientele quite different from that at the other theaters. In sharp contrast to publishing and theater. “Box Office Reports for Five Operas Mounted by Handel in London. Purchasing or commissioning art does take us beyond the realms of 95. On the Continent. . 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. Chance preservation of box-office reports for a few nights tells us that it had 170 subscribers in 1731–32 (worth about ₤89 per night on average). A season subscription. Opera was glamorous.

We are talking here of commissioned originals from distinguished artists. Reynolds got just ₤7 for two busts. 50 for a kit-cat. and 40 for a head. which range from steep to mind-boggling. 40 for a three-quarter. The figures that follow are drawn except as noted from two valuable modern studies: David Mannings. 1988).99 Prices spiraled upward during the eighteenth century. but by 1787 was charging 160 guineas for a whole-length.200 guineas from the Duke of Rutland. and Iain Pears. 20. 98. and 40 guineas for heads. By the later 1770s he had raised his fees to 200 guineas for a whole-length and 50 for a bust. Around 1720 Richardson was charging 20 guineas for a three-quarter and 10 for a bust. hume theater and publishing explored in this essay—but public exhibition of art in the modern sense was a thing of the future. Gainsborough started out in the 1740s charging three to five guineas per bust. During the period under consideration here. 99. ₤30 for a three-quarter. which I believe is not true of one painter in England besides [himself].97 In the 1670s Lely charged ₤60 for a portrait. 218–25) for statistics on 545 paintings by 122 painters that fetched more than ₤40 at auction between 1711 and 1759.. History paintings tended to be considerably more expensive than portraits. “Notes on Some Eighteenth-Century Portrait Prices in Britain. Reynolds reportedly received 1.” Pictures resold at auction (whether imported or locally executed) tended to vary widely in price. The Discovery of Painting: The Growth of Interest in the Arts in England. In 1790 he wrote to Sheridan that a whole-length with two children would be 300 guineas. ₤30. though Highmore adds. and ₤15 with the new kit-cat size at ₤20. I owe this reference to the kindness of Donald Burrows. 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. Conn. and 20 for a bust. Letter to James Harris. “I do every thing myself.” British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 6 (1983): 185–96 (see esp. As a beginner in the early 1740s. This is not the place for an extensive survey of painters’ fees and incomes. by 1730 he had upped his fees to 70 guineas for a whole-length. As of 1703 Kneller was getting ₤50 for a whole-length. 97. and his oil sketch for the Nativity of 1779 for the New College window brought him 1. and ₤15 for a bust. for a half-length in 1711. several scholars have reported enough particulars to give us a fairly good idea of the spectrum of prices. and 20 for a bust. but by 1761 he was demanding 100 guineas for a whole-length. 80 for a three-quarter. 50 for a three-quarter. 70. . Dahl got ₤21 10s. In 1764 his price went up to 150.518 robert d. 1660–1768 (New Haven. See Pears’s Table 1 (Discovery of Painting.” adding that he had not painted originals “under the rates of 10. half lengths. and its famous Summer Exhibitions were to evolve from its original function as a school. and 30 for a bust.”98 Copies were usually executed mostly or entirely by studio assistants. a subject still in need of systematic investigation. art had to be bought or privately viewed. Only one of the paintings was by an Englishman. The Royal Academy of Arts was not founded until 1768.500 guineas for The Infant Hercules (bought by the Empress of Russia). Happily. part of the Malmesbury Collection (9M73) in the Hampshire Record Office. and whole lengths these eighteen years. but by 1706 he had raised his prices to ₤60. 187 and 192).

with the Engravers’ Act. By way of comparison. Selling Art in Georgian London: The Rise of Arthur Pond (New Haven.000” at 1s. costs. Figures from Ronald Paulson. for two half-lengths and a three-quarter in 1717. and promptly found himself undersold by pirates at 6d. and Rake a dazzling ₤184 16s. Back in 1731–32 the Harlot subscription was “over ₤1500. but we get some idea of the possibilities from the wonderfully detailed accounts preserved for Arthur Pond (1701–1758). ed. for three portraits in 1716. 1660–1740 519 Lower-end prices were far less dizzying.. note that in the 1730s Sir Robert Walpole paid ₤320 for a Poussin. but was sometimes upwards of ₤300 per annum and reached ₤372 in 1749. and “earned upwards of ₤300” in a few weeks (after costs and dealer discounts). however.” and “by 1735. When Hogarth auctioned his paintings in 1745. restorer. ₤300 for a Palma Vecchio. Danae 60 guineas.724 with index). Four Times of Day ₤127 1s. We get a slightly different sense of the situation if we look at Hogarth. collector. 102. His price for a full-length went from 16 guineas in 1738 to 35 in 1748. 101. 1991–92). On a couple of occasions his gross annual income exceeded ₤1. he was charging almost half an opera subscription for a single kit-cat crayon head. ₤700 for one Guido and ₤500 for another. 2 vols. (Cambridge. In 1745 his topical engraving of Lovat “probably sold upwards of 10. “Arthur Pond’s Journal of Receipts and Expenses. Louise Lippincott. 1734–1750. Pears reports that Brook (a local painter in Bury) got ₤8 12s. . We cannot suppose that Pond was typical of anything. and Mrs. printed in full by Louise Lippincott. Hogarth. of 100.” Hogarth had issued his Masquerades and Operas engraving at 1s.000. by 1748 he was getting 10. His income from portraitpainting varied wildly..the economics of culture in london. In the 1730s. special indulgence or no. but Harlot brought ₤88 4s. a sensationally successful artist who was both painter and engraver. He was a successful and highly prosperous man. ₤500 for a Salvator Rosa. agent. and living expenses—the last item often more than his profits.. More figures for journeymen painters working in London would be good to have. dealer. Brown (a rare female painter) ₤8 12s. Back in 1724 at a time when “there were no laws protecting the artist. Horace Walpole bought a small portrait for only 5 guineas. MS. Strolling Actresses fetched 26 guineas. but not more than a mildly successful painter.103 Hogarth. In 1734 he was getting 6 guineas for a head in oil. 1983). vol.”102 This illustrates the growing potentialities of a less-than-elite market. Conn. but Hogarth was not pleased. 2:229–38. Even these sums would have been out of the reach of most of the population. Ibid.” Walpole Society. see Louise Lippincott. and he maintained the pretentious lifestyle appropriate to a would-be society painter out of his considerable earnings from his other activities. ₤315 for four small Murillos. profit.100 Not enough people wanted his portraits. 23. he was secure and could live off the continuing sale of old prints as well as new subscriptions and topical prints. rev. Over fifteen years his prices drifted higher. and printseller. see also her Tables 4 and 7.101 The total proceeds were nearly ₤500. 54 for 1988 (1991): 220–333 (a transcript of British Library Add. 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-length—this from the young Romney. For a wonderfully helpful analysis of the socio-politics and economics of his career.. Pond was a painter. 45. Lippincott’s Table 6 records his income from painting.

For detailed analysis of Pope’s net gains.” Theatre Survey 43 (2002): 148–75. for example. chap.000. and Brean S. The gist of it is that after 1660 writers rapidly become professionals who make writing their trade and thereby earn their livings. Ibid. social connections. Single engravings could sell in sufficient numbers to make substantial profits.” but they were a way for artists to go downmarket without undercutting single picture prices. 106. 107. hume course. 104.000 in present-day buying power. represents the pinnacle of success for engravers in his era. 44. a litany of complaints that tends to distract us from reality. The picture we get from most literary historians is essentially that presented by Saunders in The Profession of English Letters (see n. you are looking at a total on the order of ₤725. see Pat Rogers.000 to ₤1. “Gravelot and Laguerre: Playing Hob on the Eighteenth-Century English Stage. The roughly ₤10.104 Engravings were by no means “cheap. See Lippincott.260 or a more generous ₤1.107 Each of the 575 subscribers to the Iliad was paying a tenth of the average annual income of one of King’s “Gentlemen in the Liberal Arts and Sciences. and engravers were better protected by law than authors as of 1735. we find steep expenses. 105. Pope and the Early-Eighteenth-Century Book Trade.520 robert d. Selling Art.” Whether you calculate the 6 guineas paid by each subscriber as a relatively modest ₤1. earned quite normal small sums for most of his work (₤15 here. remained out of reach for all but the decidedly well-to-do—and until the middle of the century they remained very much the province of foreign rather than native-born artists. By the middle of the eighteenth century a growing number of potential customers could pay a shilling per print if they chose to.106 Authors perpetually grumbled about the parsimony of publishers and the lack of generous patrons. . Hammond. and slow return on considerable investment. 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. 1670–1740:“Hackney for Bread” (Oxford. 61–63. Patronage Patronage—principally in the form of subscription publication and government jobs—is more important to the economics of cultural production in this period than perpetual lamentations about the absence of patrons might lead us to expect. 99–101. 276.900 in terms of 2005 value. but mostly of a precarious Grub Street kind. and hence could not appeal to a mass market. For two of the best accounts of “professional writing” in the first half of the eighteenth century. If we look to Arthur Pond’s career as a printseller. and genteel arm-twisting that enabled him to peddle several hundred subscriptions at a dizzying 5 and 6 guineas each.000 he earned from Homer was the result of the celebrity. 1972). 1997).105 Oil paintings. see Foxon. 30 guineas there). A substantial number of people evidently did eke out subsistence of a sort. however. I emphasize this point be- 103. Professional Imaginative Writing in England. limited sales. see Judith Milhous. Pope. 7. One might wonder why there were not many more “series” of scenes published such as those extant for the popular Flora (1729). above). Grub Street: Studies in a Subculture (London. The answer seems to be that such series cost about 15s. This is not a commercial sale: it is a form of patronage bestowed by the nobility and gentry. 45.

000 per annum. and Edward Young. government posts were another.. 86). Landa. from 1705 to 1714 he was a Commissioner for Wines at ₤200. Patrick’s (an English bishopric being what he wanted)—but we must not forget that from 1713 he earned a tidy ₤800 per annum as dean. the beneficiary of a special warrant from the Secretary of State allowing him “to conduct the office by deputy. . The fees had to be collected. William Congreve the Man (New York. On the earlier history of subscription sales. and he got 457 one-guinea subscribers to the Seasons in 1730—among them Pope. Old DNB and Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.. “Secret Service Payments to Daniel Defoe. He lost it in 1737 when his patron died but was given a ₤100 pension by the Prince of Wales in 1738. earned a considerable amount of money from his early poems. see David Nokes.” The Library. Thus Swift’s income from the Church of England was upwards of ₤1.” Modern Philology 29 (1931): 199–224. and The Complete Works of Sir John Vanbrugh. 1927–28). 1985). and they did vary. Landa. ed. Clifford and Louis A. C. Bonamy Dobrée and Geoffrey Webb. 110. n. Clapp. 112.400). 4th ser. 111. Alexander Pope: A Life (New York. Defoe was not scraping a living out of his poems and pamphlets.” in James L. A. and from 1714 he collected more than ₤700 a year as Secretary for the Island of Jamaica. (Bloomsbury. See J. Maynard Mack. For a number of years Harley paid Defoe at least ₤250 (and more probably ₤400) per annum for a variety of services.111 Jonathan Swift wept and wailed about being stuck in Dublin as Dean of St. it was priced vastly above the level at which it could be sold to the book buying public. Arbuthnot. 114. See John C. 4:169.” Review of English Studies.109 Luxury subscriptions were one form of patronage. and a writer who never needed to worry about the economics of publishing.s. 37. Addison did far better out of government appointments. 159–70. Jonathan Swift: A Hypocrite Reversed (Oxford. Bolingbroke. See Louis A. but Hodges’s bemoaning “the meagreness of Congreve’s governmental pay” before 1714 seems overdone (p. a sum that made him a very prosperous person indeed.000. but like his Shakespeare. Congreve became a Commissioner for Licensing Hackney Coaches in 1695 at ₤100 per annum (basically a sinecure). Sir John Vanbrugh: A Biography (London. and in 1746 Lord Lyttelton got him appointed Surveyor-General of the Leeward Islands.000 from publication of his poems by 1729. “The Beginnings of Subscription Publication in the Seventeenth Century. See Kerry Downes. 236–43. 863.113 Some kinds of employment were not so above-board.”110 Vanbrugh not only became an eminent architect but was also appointed Comptroller of the Queen’s 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. 1987). 1660–1740 521 cause Maynard Mack has suggested that Pope’s contract with Lintot represents “the end of the patronage system. Swift was notably generous in his charitable contributions.108 Pope’s Homer was very nicely produced. 1941). 13 (1933): 158–83. 53–54. 30 (1979): 437–41. but he died a wealthy man. see Sarah L. 1985). Hodges. Pope and His Contemporaries: Essays Presented to George Sherburn (Oxford. and “Subscription Publishers Prior to Jacob Tonson. 98–99. Landa points out that as of 1742 Swift’s goods and chattels were valued at ₤10. a ₤300 sinecure. Downie. eds. 1949).the economics of culture in london. 63. “Swift’s Deanery Income. 113. 81–87.114 108.” a crucial step toward the author’s being able to live by poetry alone. and was given a ₤300 government sinecure in 1733. 1710–1714. 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. 109. 4 vols.112 James Thomson worked as a tutor when young. Thomson had reportedly earned ₤1.

hume We tend to think of “patronage” in terms of commissions.116 We possess almost no specifics about such matters. Handel. E. Brett-Smith sale (Sotheby’s. Conn.. 116. 3:267. but such anecdotes have a way of improving in the telling. Dorset was probably rich enough to make such a gesture. rev. As an example at the top of the scale.118 Fake dedications were apparently a dodge of long standing. 215–20. Two exemplars were offered for sale (and reproduced in facsimile in the catalogue) at the John R.” Item 527 reproduces the binding of “A Funeral Poem” on the Earl of Kingston (1713). (London. ed. Thomas Dekker. ed. When Swift writes to Gay that “the usuall dedicationfee” was “20 guinneas.. Mass.and Selected Writings. especially a sermon or any other matter of divinity. 1963–65). 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. . 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. Cambridge. travel up and down most shires in England and live by this Hawking.750). 1650–1800 (Cambridge. James M.115 The anecdote about Dorset giving Dryden a ₤100 banknote is a fine tale. (Oxford. add a new printed Epistle to it and. but strains credulity. 118. James Anderson Winn quotes Dryden’s 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.”117 we have no way to guess whether this is pie-in-the-sky or something a relatively celebrated writer might hope for. 1968). B. Harold Williams. Pendry (1967. The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift. but what sort of return such efforts brought is impossible to say. 5 vols. On patronage of all these sorts. The source is the not particularly reliable Giles Jacob. . A court appointment or a semi-sinecure could provide a living. 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. 1996). 27 May 2004). reprint ed. ex gratia payments for dedications or memorial poems. The Poetical Register: or. consider G. or that John Gay received from the Queensberrys). the Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets. bound with the Kingston coat of arms and bordered in black. Flattered recipients reportedly coughed up “four or six angels” (roughly ₤2–₤3 at the time). 119. As early as 1608. Literary Patronage in England. [Gainesville.. together with notes by Bishop Percy (a former owner).” I strongly suspect that the real importance of patronage lay not in lordly gifts but in jobs. 10). 435). 117. or hospitality (of the sort the Earl of Burlington provided to an inner circle. 2 vols. private service.119 Dekker adds that some sharpers would buy up “any old book. with an alphabet of letters which they carry about them being able to print any man’s name for a dedication on the sudden. I owe this reference to the kindness of Gill Spraggs. see Dustin H.. We know that poor old Elkanah Settle sent specially bound copies of sycophantic poems to notables in the hopes of cadging a gift. Figures on individual bounty are in short supply. F. Fla. 1965]. D. 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. Griffin. The Wonderful Year. ed. 1719–20).522 robert d. Osborn is uncharacteristically uncritical of this anecdote (John Dryden: Some Biographical Facts and Problems. Much has been written about his economic woes and his need to appeal to the middle class. 2:16. . 1987]. that lies for waste paper and is clean forgotten. each copy with a different name at the head of the epistle dedicatory.

” Early Music 19 (1991): 323–41. Hume. and he made gifts ranging from 20 to 50 guineas to the principal singers for their benefits.000 annual subsidy for the Royal Academy of Music was only a drop in a very leaky bucket. each. Charles II’s regular attendance at the public theaters must have been good for business.121 A surprising number of successful writers and musicians did in fact obtain a substantial part of their livelihood from government posts—and 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. Saussure says that the footmen were entitled to 1s. Potter was an impecunious .125 His ₤1. many impoverished writers must have relied on booksellers and affluent collectors for the chance to see. pp. see David Stoker. 125. A Foreign View of England. This continued to be true for a long time. See Donald Burrows and Robert D. however frugal his payments (of which detailed records survive in the Lord Chamberlain’s papers). Smollett’s description in Humphry Clinker of his own Sunday dinners for less fortunate writers probably represents something like the truth for a slightly later period. Melford’s letter of 10 June). See Ellen T. see Saussure. “Royal Patronage of Handel in Britain: The Rewards of Pensions and Office. Euripides. and Sophocles. Harris. “George I. use.500 (in addition to considerable personal property) by the time of his death. Knapp. 123.” Studies in Bibliography 46 (1993): 282–302. On this practice. By the 1720s. elite culture in London had grown in scale and cost to a point that made any imaginable crown subsidy essentially insignificant.” Music and Letters 85 (2004): 521–75. ed. 1984). Tobias Smollett. He died worth about ₤20. the Haymarket Opera Company and Handel’s Water Music. rev. 64 and 195. but it was a conspicuous public gesture. “Greek Tragedy with a Happy Ending: The Publication of Robert Potter’s Translations of Aeschylus.000. 120.120 A recent and revealing analysis of his bank accounts shows that he managed to accumulate a great deal of cash. totaling some ₤17. Handel being a preeminent example of a beneficiary. The National Archives LC 5/148.the economics of culture in london. 122. 121. Patronage did exist at lower levels as well as grand ones. “Handel the Investor. however. and sometimes borrow books they could not afford to buy. as Samuel Johnson’s energetic efforts on behalf of unfortunate friends’ subscriptions testifies. For an important account of patronage of several sorts later in the century. Paul-Gabriel Boucé (Oxford. Royal patronage did exist.122 One disadvantage was the need to tip the great man’s servants. 124–33 (J.124 Recently discovered privy purse records show that George I appears to have attended something like half of the opera performances at the King’s Theatre when he was in London. For a detailed accounting of Handel’s receipt of these royal pensions throughout the rest of his life. James II made two ₤20 gifts to John Crowne.126 120. 126. apparently as significations of his pleasure in seeing Sir Courtly Nice and Darius—though these payments are unique in the Lord Chamberlain’s records. Lewis M. 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).” forthcoming. see David Hunter. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker. 1660–1740 523 ₤600 per annum in personal payments from the royal family. 124.123 Another instance of non-cash patronage was access to books: in a day before public libraries.

1998). but would have been exceedingly difficult for all but a few authors unless they had other sources of income.” I must issue a similar reminder here. Earning ₤200 per annum was possible for a small minority of principal actors. Prices for books and theater (not to mention opera and painting) put them out of the reach of most of the population. but puts perennial complaints in perspective). and that most of the consumption must have come in the top 1.8 percent or so. Mass. see Paulina Kewes. 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. Even Donaldson v. Improvements in technology eventually made cheaper printing feasible.and later seventeenth century..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. A high proportion of the profits of publishing and theater (excepting opera) went to proprietors. or seeking a broader audience by selling to those of lower income. let alone at mid-century. Becket in 1774 decisively denied publishers’ claim to the purchase of perpetual copyright. hume Some Tentative Conclusions What conclusions can be drawn from this welter of facts. Becket did not terminate predatory practices among publishers. appeal to niche markets. we have some very solid particular facts and figures. not firm findings. and there is substantial truth in it. see Nancy A.524 robert d. see Mark Rose. This is the cliché. not profits from sales. . not to authors or performers. and how fairly they represent the totality of such data can only be guessed at. 127. “Charles Rennett and the London Music-Sellers in the 1780s: Testing the Ownership of Reversionary Copyrights. the reward for publication was eventually preferment in the church. Gradual increases in literacy helped book sales. Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright (Cambridge. 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. Recent scholarship has proved that concern with “originality” (long held to derive from the 1710 act) actually evolved and became important in the mid. 1660–1710 (Oxford. 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. contradictions.” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 129 (2004): 1–23. 1993). I have suggested that consumers of elite culture represented no more than about 5 percent of the population. Mace. On this case. however. We must. but they are radically incomplete. I suspect that this welldocumented case from the 1760s–1780s represents sociopolitical and economic realities that had changed little in the course of the preceding century. The theater patent grants of the 1660s (reinforced by the Licensing Act of 1737) destroyed any possibility of competition among multiple theaters. but only very slowly. blanks. whose incomes amounted to ₤250 per annum or more. Authorship and Appropriation: Writing for the Stage in England. puzzles. Various factors did help expand the pool of potential buyers of culture. understand just how small that middling group remained even at the end of the eighteenth century. They also squelched any hope that the performers might be able to work for their own advantage rather than as hirelings. 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. Rights accruing to authors from the 1710 copyright act appear to have been largely nil until the decision in Donaldson v.

In June of 1660. musicians. Looking to past models. 1750–1850.128 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. As late as 1800 male literacy was only about 60 percent. theater. assume that culture had become “middle-class” (whatever that means) by 1740. and music what he devoted to mistresses. with Charles II newly restored to the throne. scholars will probably confirm some of my findings and emend. the history of elite culture over the next half century (and possibly far longer) might well have been significantly different. painting. 84–89. and dancers might reasonably look forward to a new era of fabulous masques lavishly funded by the king and those seeking his favor. 1660–1740 525 only four other cities had a population over 10. painting. esp. Freely acknowledging the possibility of future rethinking.” Explorations in Economic History 10 (1973): 437–54. 129. I shall offer three basic observations. education. and R. 568–82 at 572. 128. however. or government functionaries (Milton under Cromwell—not that Milton would have been seen as important in 1660).the economics of culture in london. had Charles II spent on masques. court theater. 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). social patterns. or disprove others. For a useful discussion of literacy. Writers. painters. 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). 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. publishing. “The Economic Context. 167. and female literacy about 40 percent—and had increased very little in half a century. or seekers of royal patronage (Spenser). Schofield. A look at Massie’s figures for 1759 provides a blunt reminder that the social strata defined by King had changed far less than one might suppose. and those who needed to augment their income would seek patronage. see Hunt.129 Much basic investigation remains to be done in relation to incomes. See John Brewer. The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century (London.000. James Raven. would-be important writers with serious pretentions might be clergymen (Donne). We should not. The Middling Sort. Indeed. (1)The nature of the cultural market evolved dramatically between 1660 and 1740. and because they were gradual and little recognized by commentators at that time we tend not to recognize how drastic they really were. “Dimensions of Illiteracy. The ways in which the production and consumption of culture changed were almost totally unforeseeable in 1660. 1997). improve.” in Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. As more is learned. S. . This observation arises not so much from the questions I asked at the outset as from a survey of the evidence reviewed here. and music.

nor of cultural journals such as the Tatler and the Spectator (fl. and dinner for 8d. For two quite different but ultimately congruent views of this matter. 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. 131. not meant to be printed and widely disseminated. See Plant. Even Charles II and James II were huge disappointments: they were kept very short of money and spent their discretionary funds in other ways.000 by the 1740s). 1709–1712). 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. English Book Trade.131 Pondering the immensity of the changes involved. or that huge sums of money would be poured into a (highly unprofitable) stand-alone opera company. Hume. let alone the Gentleman’s Magazine (founded in 1731 and reaching a circulation of 15. in 1660 no one could have dreamed of the world of the Daily Courant (founded in 1702) and its imitators. 1660–1702 (Oxford. In 1660 no one could have imagined that in future decades theaters would suffer direct competition from orchestral and vocal concerts. (2) To try to earn a living as a writer. Vanderlint’s ₤500 per annum minimum to 130. and the market was. Samuel Johnson’s income was under ₤100 for the first twenty years of his London career. but virtually all assumptions quickly proved false. 143. Theater was a public entertainment. How drama and theater would have evolved if left unregulated is anyone’s guess. hume In 1660 a sensible observer would almost inevitably have predicted a return to something like the norms of circa 1630. but William III had no interest whatever in such matters and Queen Anne little more. 2004).132 and his ₤10 for clothes and linen. Saunders. English Clandestine Satire. but not English-language entertainments or literature. One of these effects was to put playwrights (and their pay) squarely under the thumbs of those who controlled the patents. 57. actor. manifestly tiny. pamphlets. Profession of English Letters. 132. What constitutes “a living” is. 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. and Harold Love. George I patronized opera.526 robert d. in any case.” Modern Philology 102 (2005): 332–71. to be sure. see Robert D. per week. a garret at 18d. but is a sum that few hack writers could have hoped to earn. A large and vital part of Carolean literary culture was scribal. and broadsides of the Cromwell era notwithstanding. King’s ₤60 per annum average for those in the Liberal Arts and Sciences implies a very limited lifestyle. 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). a matter of definition. (including a penny for the waiter) makes no allowance for a wife and children. but the rapid rise of daily newspapers created a tipping point.130 Political news-sheets. or musician was a tough proposition. 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. . The changes took place gradually over many decades. “‘Satire’ in the Reign of Charles II. What was unforeseeable was the scale of consumption and distribution of culture in the eighteenth century.

The famous eighteenth-century instance of a prosperous London music teacher is Dr. actors. Pepys paid his wife’s music teacher a heady 10s. 1660–1740 527 live as a gentleman cannot have been achieved by more than a tiny percentage of writers and musicians. Booth. To earn more than ₤45 per annum put a family in the top 16.5 percent.000–₤2. 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. 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.000 per annum taken home by Wilks. The ₤50 or ₤60 earned from a successful play in the Carolean period was not bad pay. and painters at the top end of the income spectrum were very well off indeed. nationally speaking. who worked for the opera and theater orchestras but published “Lessons” that he evidently sold to his society students.the economics of culture in london. . and Cibber put them in a very exclusive group. The pay of the house servants was paltry. Burney. we realize that the few writers. but principal performers could do very well indeed—though only proprietors (and some building-share owners in the seventeenth century) could be said to have lavish incomes. The incomes of theatrical performers exhibit an acute bifurcation: the majority range from the barest subsistence level to modest comfort. musicians. and their always irregular incomes ranged from very marginal (or worse) to lavish. Writers could not. but many of them probably had other jobs and many belonged to two-income families—as did quite a few actors. discreetly or otherwise. Among the 148 regular employees of Covent Garden Theatre that year. Extra income might be earned from fairs or summer theater or strolling. and it is certainly what we find in 1735–36. By Lindert and Williamson’s reckoning. Such percentages should not mislead us.133 or play at private parties. 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. Fourteen more had total incomes of at least ₤200. but nothing like a comfortable London living for a family for a year—and after the union of 1682. This is the impression one gets from fragmentary early records. per song (31 August 1667) but this can hardly have been the going rate paid by any but the gentry. In the period at issue a good example is Jean-Baptiste Loeillet. though only the proprietor received an income sufficient to live as a “gentleman” in Vanderlint’s terms. Women might capitalize on their bodies. When we consider the buying power of money between 1660 and 1740. the 1670s must have looked to playwrights like a golden age. Roughly one-sixth of the company was in the top 5 percent of incomes.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. He died very comfortably off in 1730 with an estate including an extensive collection of instruments (ODNB). The ₤1. The 1. Musicians and dancers would typically moonlight as teachers. and another ten had incomes between ₤100 and ₤200. the aptly named proprietor). Actors in employment could count on a regular income (barring fire or plague or closure for royal mourning). we find just one who made more than ₤400 (John Rich. when we first have almost complete records of pay and benefits for a whole company.

”137 Large sums were occasionally earned by authors. As Geoffrey Holmes concluded. John Dryden and His World. 8:301–2. State. and Society. the Stage. “very few poets. In 1714 the learned Lewis Theobald contracted with Lintot to translate the Odyssey into English blank verse at the rate of ₤2 10s. few authors consistently made much money by publishing books. actors. Dryden is often regarded as one of the earliest “professional writers.000 fortune and enjoyed lucrative royal posts for most of his career. hume today—and made them the subject of obscene poems and envious commentary in the newspapers. Literary Anecdotes. 135. James Ralph’s famous “Case” of 1758 is shrill and whiney (“there is no Difference between the Writer in his Garret. but his brother-in-law held a senior exchequer position and helped Dryden collect most of what was owed him. and the Slave in the Mines”). . 68.200. 1758). If we assume that ₤50–₤80 per annum was a competence.134 The ₤200 per annum they were supposed to yield was irregularly paid. but the dismal picture he conveys clearly had a great deal of truth in it. Geoffrey Holmes. Nichols. Judging the prosperity or poverty of writers. quotation at 22.136 Marjorie Plant’s dour verdict on publishing is borne out by extant figures for this period: “The person who was of no account whatever . and musicians is doubly difficult because we do not know the scale of their expenses. dramatists or writers of serious pretension could hope to live prosperously by their literary work alone. for every 120 Latin lines. he was able to capitalize on his position as England’s foremost man of letters. James Ralph.”138 134. The Case of Authors by Profession as Trade Stated With Regard to Booksellers. but for a great many of them. 1d. If we accept Peter Earle’s analysis. His translation of Virgil (a subscription publication) brought him ₤1. English Book Trade. bona fide men of letters usually had to find other ways to support themselves. but by way of comparison we should remember that no other translator except Pope earned such remuneration. Most notable writers did not make their livings (let alone their fortunes) by their pens. Plant. Occasional success stories notwithstanding.528 robert d. Publishers and managers profited far more than writers.135 Translating Aeschylus’ tragedies was to bring him ten guineas in toto. and the Public (London. . . then quite a few people scratched out a fairly precarious living. 32. 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. Augustan England: Professions. Given the tiny print runs and the daily gross of the theaters (which generally operated at under two-thirds of capacity). . When he lost his royal patronage after the revolution of 1688.” but we should remember that he married a woman with a ₤3. . was the author. especially after the publishers and proprietors had taken their hefty cuts. writing was less a means of earning a living than a way of helping piece together a living or supplementing another source of income. See Winn. Appendix C. there was simply not enough money spent on books and theater to generate many such incomes. 137. 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. 138. A lot of work went into that massive volume. 1982). 136. 1680–1730 (London.

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. its social spectrum. by myself in the present essay.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 Distribution of Almanacks in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century. theater was pricey. Blagden’s statistics show that some 400. John Brewer and Roy Porter. See Cyprian Blagden. with known retail prices running 2d. 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.the economics of culture in london. . 140. was common. Pleasures of the Imagination. 1660–1740 529 (3) Cultural products were punitively expensive for all save a very elite minority.” Studies in Bibliography 11 (1958): 107–16.–2d. Ann Bermingham and John Brewer. For those concerned with issues of elite versus popular culture. whereas after 1660 both patent companies charged twelve times that sum—but virtually no effort has been made to analyze the effect of this increase on the size of audience. 141. 1993). The cost of production and the availability of discretionary funds to purchase the results are therefore not an incidental issue. and the massive collections on “consumption” that he has co-edited hardly refer to the subjects of cost and money at all. 305–19. Theater historians have faithfully pointed out that the minimum cost of admission to Shakespeare’s Globe was probably 1d. or the economic impact on actors and writers. the price to the consumer would seem to be fairly critical. Consumption and the World of Goods (London.141 Large numbers of 139. eds. 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.. I feel slightly foolish belaboring so obvious and elementary a point. Habermas put heavy stress on inclusivity and a bourgeois reading public comprising a wide range of classes. Wholesale prices reported by Blagden vary. Brewer.” in Consumption and the World of Goods. The very scholarly Cambridge History of the Book in Britain for 1557–1695 has little to say about either the cost of producing books or buying them... but 1d. Opera and painting were stratospherically expensive. A. and by J. 1995). to 7½d. and books of the sort that contained plays and poems were by no means readily affordable by those of “the middling sort. Downie in “How Useful to Eighteenth-Century English Studies is the Paradigm of the ‘Bourgeois Public Sphere’?” Literature Compass 1 (2003): 1–18. John Brewer’s admirably wide-ranging survey of eighteenth-century English culture mentions economics of any sort only occasionally and casually. These matters also have important implications for the concept of a “bourgeois public sphere” enunciated by Habermas and now in common use. eds.140 This is not the place to spar with Habermas and his followers. but such insistence is apparently necessary.000 almanacs per annum were purchased in the 1660s. The Consumption of Culture 1600–1800 (London.” Cheap books did exist and were widely bought. 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. which means that nearly one-third of all households in England acquired one— a startling percentage of those that contained one literate person.

or 1s. “Printing and Publishing 1557–1700: Constraints on the London Book Trades. or so the (emended) scales of income calculated by King imply. When theaters were altered or rebuilt. he is committing an extravagance that should stagger us.” 36.”142 Relatively few copies survive: they were printed on cheap stock. That this market was growing by the 1730s is evident from the sales enjoyed by Hogarth. Poems and plays fall in a totally different category.500 of whom paid ₤4 for a license in 1697 when Parliament passed a law requiring one). commenting wryly on the “relatively low level of market penetration. Opera tickets were relatively affordable at one-fortieth the season subscription price for pit and boxes. When Pepys pays ₤30 for his wife’s miniature. respectively. 4:553–67 at 556. A large number of chapbooks were practical: cookbooks. and they were used as toilet paper. ₤3–₤6 was not a sum even the middling sort could readily spend. a play quarto was cheap by the standards of a place in the pit or boxes. They were distributed in large numbers by the numerous hawkers and peddlers (2. As Spufford observes. which when priced at 6d.” Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. . which ran 2s. Their usual minimum price was three to six times (and as much as twelve to eighteen times) that of a chapbook. Records of cash receipts imply an average of no more than about 150–200 buyers most nights. etc. The probable print run of most Carolean plays was no more than 500 copies. and further that the galleries were not more crowded than the expensive parts of the house. Surviving records strongly suggest that the theaters were rarely anything like full. Spufford. 6d. Early and late. or 1s. hume chapbooks were printed. Public desire for art is no doubt reflected in the burgeoning market for engravings. and if he desired to. were within reach of a vastly larger number of buyers. Far fewer could readily have afforded a place in the pit or boxes. and 4s.” so “it made better sense to test the market with small editions and then to print a work again if demand warranted it. 116. 143. 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. some of them devotional (“Penny Godlinesses” in Pepys’s term).”144 We 142.143 The price was relatively steep (₤10–₤22. McKenzie points out that paper was “the most expensive element” in publishing. Small Books and Pleasant Histories. 48. some purely for entertainment (Pepys’s “Penny Merriments”). bills of sale.530 robert d. We have no reason to believe that management could have improved its gross by catering to cheap-seat customers.” This leads him to caution us against “drawing inferences about total demand from the number of known editions”. David Hunter has calculated that only about 12 percent of the families that could afford a season subscription actually paid for one. “Patronizing Handel. “These chapbooks really were priced within reach of the agricultural labourer if he could read. 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. 6d. the theaters provided entertainment for a clientele that could and would pay steep prices. but surviving figures imply that relatively few people chose to buy them. gallery sales included. the designers did not choose to pack in more galleryites in the place of posh customers.50 in modern terms?) and the market limited—though at 1s. 144. gardening books. explanations of bonds. Hunter. “and once printed not re-usable.

or even came to town for part of the year. and theorbos of the sort that might have been bought by Playford aficionados seem to have sold for ₤4–₤6. a quarter “to maintain each Lute with Strings. 146. Songs and dialogues from The Island Princess cost 3s. “The London Music Trade 1650–1725” (D. pp. for the “first Stringing” of a lute and 5s. This thesis promises to become an important book. esp. and instruments for professional court musicians tend to range toward ₤12. 1676]. Fine English bass viols. (the same price as Tonson’s Shakespeare of 1709). but Benjamin Hebbert has very generously shared with me some of the initial results of his ongoing investigation of this subject. I would guess that perhaps 600 or 800 families were in London enough of the year to consider subscribing. however. . Decent harpsichords seem to have run ₤12–₤14. and instruments might be inherited or bought secondhand.” Mace was at pains to deny the common view that “one had as good keep a Horse (for Cost) as a Lute” (Tho. . or eight. Some effort was made to reach a broader audience.148 For home use. for example. implies that musical instruments would have been decidedly costly for all but a tiny percentage of the population. Oxford Unversity. . 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. 46). to 9s. violins. the music of single operas circa 1710 ran 9s. 1695–1720 (London. 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. Mace. what the cheapest new instruments cost is not recorded. See William C.145 Purcell’s operas were a dizzying 30s. sale. and resale of musical instruments. or even ten or more times.146 No range of advertised prices is known.–4s. with an average around 3s. Pepys. thesis. xv and plates 7 and 27 (which reproduce price lists). Cremonese violins. Eccles’s song collection cost 15s. that not all of those families lived in London. but it tended to be quite expensive. 1948). Old instruments or a fancy theorbo could easily fetch ₤20 but reportedly could go as high as ₤100. Walsh’s price range ran from 6d. 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. The spinet Pepys bought for ₤5 on 15 July 1668 would have represented a month’s income for one of King’s “Gentlemen Educated in the Sciences and Liberal Arts. good quality strings were ferociously expensive. A Bibliography of the Musical Works Published by John Walsh .. Surviving information. Single songs from Thomyris could be had for a penny in 1708. “Ayres” from various plays were relatively inexpensive at 1s. 1660–1740 531 must remember. Viols. 148.. singularly little research has been carried out on the economics of the manufacture. bought a bass viol for ₤3 on 21 August 1663 (plus 10s.the economics of culture in london.Phil. spinets. and numbers of the Monthly Mask of Vocal Music were priced at just 6d.” 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. Smith. Musick’s Monument [London. 147. 43–44. for carving its head). which would put the degree of participation more at the level of 18 to 25 percent. especially given that as a subscriber one would see the same shows six. Hebbert informs me that a court musician could expect to spend ₤5 a year on strings and that Thomas Mace charged 10s. was not a negligible matter. however. Printed music aplenty was sold for home use.147 Upkeep for stringed instruments. 6d. This seems quite high for so expensive an entertainment in a language almost no one understood. See Benjamin Hebbert. in progress). for example.

and was vigorously publicized. It was executed in white marble by Roubiliac. Handel: A Documentary Biography (London. in the first gallery). and may be significant to someone who earns ₤100 per annum but has a family to support. 152. 1697–1715. 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.154 The price was indeed a bargain. .153 We cannot afford to ignore the value of money.. I am grateful to David Coke for price information. 456 (and illustration opposite 480). See Curtis A. with a special overture and act-tunes for every play. See Otto Erich Deutsch. for each spinet). but there was nothing “mere” about eight guineas even at the end of the eighteenth century. but the tonier ones tended to be 5s. in the 1770s and 1780s. John Brewer rightly points to the importance of Bell’s publishing reprints of plays. 154. hume and tuning costs might well be absorbed into the cost of a teacher. each.” 38–40. 1979). 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. Harpsichords (especially double manual models) were very costly to maintain.. Brewer. for a day’s labor. but it is not negligible to anyone who earns 12d. “Harpsichords in the London Theatres. Ranelagh was the most expensive at 2s. founded in the 1660s but radically refurbished and reconceived in 1732. In 1706 Drury Lane paid 5s. for tuning each harpsichord (and 2s. Mich. (and remained so until 1792). 6d. 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. Hunter. most of the other pleasure gardens followed suit. available for 6d.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. and 5s. 153. but I suspect not. “Patronizing Handel. 1955). and editions of poets’ works for 1s. As Hunter bluntly and rightly concludes.”151 Ready access to quality music for the middling sort is probably what drove the popularity of Vauxhall. which was above the top price for a theater ticket. (including cakes and tea). 486. 6d. The normal price for oratorios was exactly the same as for operas (10s. The late-seventeenth-century theaters provided large amounts of music every night.” Early Music 18 (1990): 38–46. cost ₤300. 151. His book on Vauxhall is eagerly awaited. Pleasures of the Imagination.150 Music could be heard free in church or for just 1s. the pennsylvania state university 149.532 robert d. 6d.. Detailed figures are printed and analyzed in Judith Milhous and Curtis Price. 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. Music in the Restoration Theatre (Ann Arbor. 6d. Sixpence sounds like nothing. 150. Concerts varied widely in price. Price. at the cheapest concerts or at inns providing hours of dance music at the same price. A price of 5 shillings made a book costly or simply unobtainable for fully 99 percent of the population. Admission was just 1s.149 Whether concerts represented serious competition for the theaters is not clear.

actors. but scholars need to realize.the economics of culture in london. Patronage turns out to be surprisingly important. and subscriptions than from individual largesse. Analysis of incomes shows that trying to earn a living as a writer. actor. Hume asks four principal questions in this article: (1) Who were the consumers of elite culture. but more in terms of jobs. 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. musicians. sinecures. and what could and would they pay? (2) What could be earned by writers. 1660–1740 abstract 533 Robert D. for example. Exact equivalencies to modern buying power are impossible to calculate. . or musician was a tough proposition. 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. singers.

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