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The Beggar's Opera   By: (1685-1732)

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BEGGAR. If Poverty be a Title to Poetry, I am sure no body can dispute mine. I own myself of the Company of Beggars; and I make one at their Weekly Festivals at St. Giles's. I have a small Yearly Salary for my Catches, and am welcome to a Dinner there whenever I please, which is more than most Poets can say.

PLAYER. As we live by the Muses, it is but Gratitude in us to encourage Poetical Merit wherever we find it. The Muses, contrary to all other Ladies, pay no Distinction to Dress, and never partially mistake the Pertness of Embroidery for Wit, nor the Modesty of Want for Dulness. Be the Author who he will, we push his Play as far as it will go. So (though you are in Want) I wish you success heartily.

BEGGAR. This piece I own was originally writ for the celebrating the Marriage of James Chaunter and Moll Lay, two most excellent Ballad Singers. I have introduced the Similes that are in all your celebrated Operas: The Swallow, the Moth, the Bee, the Ship, the Flower, &c. Besides, I have a Prison Scene, which the Ladies always reckon charmingly pathetic. As to the Parts, I have observed such a nice Impartiality to our two Ladies, that it is impossible for either of them to take Offence. I hope I may be forgiven, that I have not made my Opera throughout unnatural, like those in vogue; for I have no Recitative; excepting this, as I have consented to have neither Prologue nor Epilogue, it must be allowed an Opera in all its Forms. The Piece indeed hath been heretofore frequently represented by ourselves in our Great Room at St. Giles's, so that I cannot too often acknowledge your Charity in bringing it now on the Stage.

PLAYER. But I see it is time for us to withdraw; the Actors are preparing to begin. Play away the Overture.




SCENE, Peachum's House.

Peachum sitting at a Table with a large Book of Accounts before him.

AIR I. An old Woman clothed in Gray, &c.

Through all the Employments of Life Each Neighbour abuses his Brother; Whore and Rogue they call Husband and Wife: All Professions be rogue one another: The Priest calls the Lawyer a Cheat, The Lawyer be knaves the Divine: And the Statesman, because he's so great, Thinks his Trade as honest as mine.

A Lawyer is an honest Employment, so is mine. Like me too he acts in a double Capacity, both against Rogues and for 'em; for 'tis but fitting that we should protect and encourage Cheats, since we live by them.

[Enter Filch.]

FILCH. Sir, Black Moll hath sent word her Trial comes on in the Afternoon, and she hopes you will order Matters so as to bring her off.

PEACHUM. As the Wench is very active and industrious, you may satisfy her that I'll soften the Evidence.

FILCH. Tom Gagg, Sir, is found guilty.

PEACHUM. A lazy Dog! When I took him the time before, I told him what he would come to if he did not mend his Hand. This is Death without Reprieve. I may venture to Book him [writes.] For Tom Gagg, forty Pounds. Let Betty Sly know that I'll save her from Transportation, for I can get more by her staying in England.

FILCH. Betty hath brought more Goods into our Lock to year than any five of the Gang; and in truth, 'tis a pity to lose so good a Customer.

PEACHUM. If none of the Gang take her off, she may, in the common course of Business, live a Twelve month longer. I love to let Women scape. A good Sportsman always lets the Hen Partridges fly, because the Breed of the Game depends upon them. Besides, here the Law allows us no Reward; there is nothing to be got by the Death of Women except our Wives.

FILCH. Without dispute, she is a fine Woman! 'Twas to her I was obliged for my Education, and (to say a bold Word) she hath trained up more young Fellows to the Business than the Gaming table.

PEACHUM. Truly, Filch, thy Observation is right... Continue reading book >>

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