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The Fabulous Transformations of Luxury in the Capital: John Gay’s Trivia: or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London

Bibliography and Extracts

Primary sources:

Mandeville, Bernard. Some Fables after the Easie and Familiar Method of Monsieur de la Fontaine. London, 1703.

Ward, Ned. The London-Spy Compleat, In Eighteen Parts. The Second Edition Much Enlarged and Corrected. London, Printed and sold by J. How, at the Seven Stars in Talbot Street, in Grace-Church-Street, 1704.

Mandeville, Bernard. The Grumbling Hive: Or Knaves Turn’d Honest. London, 1705.

Swift, Jonathan. Description of a City Shower. London, 1710.

Dennis, John. An Essay upon Publick Spirit; being a Satyr in Prose upon the Manners and Luxury of the Times, The Chief Sources of our present Parties and Divisions. London, 1711.

Mandeville, Bernard. The Fable of the Bees. London, 1714.

Gay, John. Trivia; or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London. London, 1716.

A new review of London, being an Exact Survey lately taken, of every street, lane, court, within the cities, liberties, or suburbs of London, Westminster, & the borough of Southwark. London, 1722.

Dennis, John. Vice & Luxury: Public Mischiefs: or, Remarks on a Book Intituled, The Fable of the Bees; or Private Vices Publick Benefits. London, 1724.

Hutcheson, Francis. An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, in two treatises. In Which The Principles of the late Earl of Shaftesbury are Explain’d and Defnded, against the Author of the Fable of the Bees. London, 1725.

Gay, John. To a Lady, on her Passion for Old China. London, 1725.

Swift, Jonathan. City Cries, Instrumental and Vocal: Or, an Examination of Certain Abuses, Corruptions, And Enormities, in London and Dublin. London, 1732.

Of Luxury, more particularly with respect to apparel. By a country clergyman. London, 1736.

Gay, John. Fable X, ‘The Degenerate Bees’. London, 1738.

The Trial of the Lady Allurea Luxury, before the Lord Chief Justice Upright, on an information for a conspiracy. London, 1757.

Fawconer, Samuel. An Essay on Modern Luxury: or an attempt to delineate its nature, causes and effects. London, 1765.

Johnson, Samuel. London: A Poem, in Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal.London, 1738. **check date?

The ambulator; or stranger’s companion in a tour round London; within the circuit of twenty-five miles. London, 1774.

The London Cries, for the Amusement of all the Good Children Throughout the World. Taken from the Life. London, 1788.

The Cries of London or Pretty Moving Market 1788-1840

Secondary Sources:

Byrd, Max. London Transformed. Images of the City in the Eighteenth Century. London, 1978.

de Vries, Jan. European Urbanization, 1500-1800. London: Methuen, 1984.

Hazlitt, William. Lectures on the English Poets. London, 1818.

Hundert, Edward. The Enlightenment’s Fable: Bernard Mandeville and the Discovery of Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Lewis, Peter and Nigel Wood. John Gay and the Scriblerians. London: Vision Press, 1988. See especially chapter 3, ‘Luxury, Refuse and Poetry: John Gay’s Trivia’, by Stephen Copley and Ian Haywood. 62-83.

Marshall, Dorothy. Dr. Johnson’s London. New York, London & Sydney: John Wiley & Sons, 1968.

Nokes, David. John Gay. A Profession of Friendship. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Porter, Roy. London: A Social History.

Rogers, Pat. Grub Street: Studies in a Subculture. London: Methuen & Co Ltd, 1972.

Warner, Oliver. John Gay. Writers and their work: no. 171, published for the British Council by Longmans, Green & Co, 1964.

Luxury in the Capital:

1)Mandeville, Bernard. The Grumbling Hive: Or Knaves Turn’d Honest. London, 1705.

These insects lived like Men, and all
Our Actions they perform’d in small:
They did whatever’s done in Town,
And what belongs to Sword, or Gown:
Tho’ th’Artful Works, by nimble Slight
Of minute Limbs, ‘scaped Human Sight;
Yet we’ve no Engines, Laboureres,
Ships, Castles, Arms, Artificiers,
Craft, Science, Shop, or Instrument;
But they had an Equivalent:
Which, since their Language is unknown,
Must be call’d, as we do our own.


The Root of evil Avarice,
That damn’d ill-natur’d baneful Vice,
Was Slave to Prodigality,
That Noble Sin; whilst Luxury
Emply’d a Million of the Poor,
And odious Pride a Million more.
Envy it self, and Vanity
Were Minsters of Industry;
Their darling Folly, Fickleness
In Diet, Furniture, and Dress,
That strange ridic’lous Vice was made
The very Wheel, that turn’d the Trade.
Their Laws and Cloaths were equally
Objects of Mutability;
For, what was well done for a Time,
In half a Year became a Crime;
Still finding and correcting Flaws,
They mended by Inconstancy
Faults, which no Prudence could foresee.


The Price of Land and Houses falls:
Mirac’lous Palaces, whose Walls,
Like those of Thebes, were raised by Play,
Are to be lett; whilst the once gay,
Well-seated Household Gods would be
More pleased t’expire in Flames, than see
The mean inscription on the Door
Smile at the lofty Ones they bore.
The Building Trade is quite destroy’d,
Artificers are not employ’d;
No Limner for his Art is famed;
Stone-cutters, Carvers are not named.

2) Mandeville, Bernard. The Fable of the Bees. London, 1714.

Ed. F.B.Kaye, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1924. Vol. I, 10-13.

There are, I believe, few People in London, of those that are at any time forc’d to go a-foot, but what could wish the Street of it much cleaner than generally they are; whilst they regard nothing but their own Cloaths and private Conveniency; but when once they come to consider, that what offends them is the result of the Plenty, great Traffick and Opulency of that mighty City, if they have any Concern in its Welfare, they will hardly ever wish to see the Streets of it less dirty. For if we mind the Materials of all sorts that must supply such an infinite number of Trades and Handicrafts, as we are always going foreward; the vast quantity of Victuals, Drink and Fewel that are daily consum’d in it, and the Waste and Superfluities that must be produc’d from them; the multitudes fo Horses and other Cattle that are always dawbing the Streets, the Carts, Coaches and more heavy Carriages that are perpetually wearing and breaking the Pavement of them, and above all the numberless swarms of People that are continually harrassing and trampling through every part of them. If, I say, we all these, we shall find that every Moment must produce new Filth; and considering how far distant the great Streets are from the River side, what Cost and Care soever be bestow’d to remove the Nastiness almost as fast as ‘tis made, it is imposssible London should be more cleanly before it is less flourishing. Now would I ask if a good Citizen, in consideration of what has been said, might not assert, that dirty streets are a necessary Evil inseparable from the Felicity of London, without being the least hindrance to the cleaning of Shoes, or sweeping of Streets, and consequently without any Prejudice either to the Blackguardor the Scavingers.

But if, without any regard to the Interest or Happiness of the City, the Question was put, what Place I though most pleasant to walk in? No body can doubt but, before the stinking Streets of London, I would esteem a fragrant Garden, or a shady Grove in the Country. In the same manner, if laying aside all worldy Greatness and Vai-Glory, I should be ask’d where I thought it was most probable that Men might enjoy True Happiness, I would prefer a small peaceable Society, in which Men, neither envy’d nor esteem’d by Neighbours, should be contented to live upon the Natural Product of the Spot they inhabit, to a vast Multitude abounding in Wealth and Power, that shoudl always be conquering others by their Arms Abroad, and debauching themselves by Foreign Luxury at Home.

3) Dennis, John. An Essay upon Publick Spirit; being a Satyr in Prose upon the Manners and Luxury of the Times, The Chief Sources of our present Parties and Divisions. London, 1711.

(See also: Vice & Luxury: Public Mischiefs: or, Remarks on a Book Intituled, The Fable of the Bees; or Private Vices Publick Benefits. London, 1724.)

‘And whenever they (Henry VII and his court) unwillingly went to Town, the Occasion was important, and the stay was short; and during their Continuance there, they spent not their time in ignoble Luxury, or in mad Profusion, nor made themselves vile in the Eyes of the World, by frequenting Houses of Promiscuous Assemblies.’ (p.9)

‘To paint the Manners of our own Times graphically, in so little Compass as that to which I have confin’d myself., would require a much greater Master than ever I can pretend to be. To say that the Counterpart of what I have said of our Ancestors is true of the Manners of our own Times is to say something, but not the hundredth part of what the Subject will bear. These Manners are so various, so complicated, so prodigious, that one might compile Volumes of them. There is not a greater difference between what London was in Harry the Eighth’s Time and what it is at present, than there is is between the Manners of our Ancestors and our own. This over-grown Town may be said to be a visible, palpable Proof of the Growth of the British Luxury.’ (p.11)

‘Thus has our Luxury chang’d our Natures in despight of our Climate, and our Girls are ripe as soon as those of the Indies. Nor has it only chang’d our Natures, but transform’d our Sexes: We have Men that are more soft, more languid, and more passive than Women; Men, who like Women are come to use Red and White, and part of the Nation are turning Picts again. On the other side we have Women, who as it were in Revenge are Masculine in their Desires, and Masculine in thier Practices; yes, we have Vices which we dare not mane, tho’ after the great Apostle of the Gentiles; and to mention which with an open Frankness, would require the Boldness of a perfect Saint, or an accomplish’d Libertine. p.15.

4) Fawconer, Samuel. An Essay on Modern Luxury. London, 1765.

‘Further, it is observable, that luxury generally abounds, in proportion to the populousness of the capital city. It is become a fashion for every body to crowd to the metropolis, to spend part of the year in town, for the sake of its pleasures and diversions. In so large and populous a city, the generality of the inhabitants must be entire strangers to each other. And, where the exteriours form our judgement of the man, and appearance in the vulgar eye passes for the only criterion of true worth: every one is ready to assume the marks of a superiour condition, in order to be esteemed more than what he really is. Hence the unwary part of the one sex falls an easy prey to the designing arts of the other, and the incautious trader becomes a dupe for the tricks of the sharpers. Tho’ the number of inhabitants in any place may be no obstruction to its commerce, our wants increasing by our assembling together, yet will that commerce be too confined.’ p.6.

‘In like manner luxury injures and destroys our mental, as well as corporeal, powers. So intimate is the connexion between the body and soul, that whatever disorders and weakens the one, proportionably affects the operations of the other. Luxury impairs the faculties of the soul, clouds the understanding, renders the will listless and inactive, stupefies the judgement, blunts the edge of our spirits; in short, for a time divests us of our reason, and deprives us of all force of acting consistently with the dignity of reasonable creatures.’ p.33.

5) Boswell, James. Life of Samuel Johnson. Edited by G. B.Hill, revised and enlarged by L.F. Powell (Clarendon Press, 1934), Vol. 4, p. 374.

‘Such was his love of London, so high a relish had he of its magnificent extent, and variety of its intellectual entertainment, that he languishes when absent from it, his mind having become quite luxurious from the long habit of enjoying the metroplis.’