Letter to The Chronicle (1762)

Montagu, Elizabeth
Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827), Breaking Up of the Blue Stocking Club (London: Thomas Tegg, 1815. NYPL, The Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle)


"In all free Commonwealths, the men who have aim’d at popularity have studied the amusements & diversions of the people."


 To a person of your universal intelligence, I take the liberty to address myself, to be informed, whether there is any real foundation for the report, that a grant is to be given of the green park for an edifice for the Dilettanti club. 

I was much concerned & alarmed to hear of an intention of taking from the public a place dedicated to health & recreation, as I am sure the resentment of the people would fall, where of all places every honest & loyal subject would be most sorry to see it directed. There is not anything that more alienates the heart of the people than a disregard of their pleasures. A burdensome tax they grieve at as a misfortune, but consider it in some degree as a necessary measure of government; an abridgement of their pleasure they feel as an affront, & resent as an injury. In all free Commonwealths, the men who have aim’d at popularity have studied the amusements & diversions of the people. Caesar’s legacy of his gardens to the Commons of Rome made a greater impression on their minds, & more endeared his memory, than all his great actions. Tho he had enlarged the bounds of his Empire, & extended the glory of the Roman name, yet the people of Rome, so fond of empire & glory, nay, the very legions he had so often led to victory, rather seemd disposed to applaud than revenge his death, till they were inform’d that by his will he had added to their recreations. Whatever they had fear’d & even whatever they had felt from his usurped authority was now forgotten. The [168] Conspirators who were before consider’d as deliverers of their Countrys wealth, & honourd as having sacrificed the greatest & noblest victim that ever was offer’d to liberty, were no longer esteem’d the destroyers of a Tyrant, but rather a Parmieides who had slain the Father of their Country, so powerful was the influence of this act of indulgence & bounty over the minds of the common people. The Common people of all ages & all Countries are much alike. If I apprehended his Majesty had any intention of invading the liberty of his subjects, I should rejoice at a measure that would give much offence. But all the acts of his reign, & the gracious & mild disposition of his mind, make me wish him the most popular man in his Kingdoms. If he is not so, it is owing to the arts of one faction, & the indiscretion of another. The name of grant is become unpleasing in the publick ear, it is generally supposed some concession to greedy importunity, & I cannot think the addition of a foreign phrase Dilettanti will make its accent more agreeable. What can the people understand by this Temple erected to ye Diltettanti, but that it is a place where foreign fashions, foreign follies, foreign fopperies, foreign arts, & foreign artists are to be encouraged? Can such a compliment be made to the Dilettanti & refused to the English beef stake club? No, Old England, will assert the rights & honour of its beef, and another noble Edifice must be erected for the beef eating society, where english ballads & catches will be sung, as Italian airs are warbled in the other, and alas! What blasphemy, what—may not the echoes of Buckingham House repeat and waft even to the chaste & delicate ear of the Q—n? It may be said that a place nearest the Royal House will be assign’d to the Virtue Club, in which the unhallow’d sounds of the beef stake club will be silenced & expire. That would indeed be well, but perhaps the echo there from a zeal for religion & good morals, or some Parson of warm piety, or some Peer of austere chastity may think it necessary to repeat & report what has been said, or sung. When Virtue, & Vice, & Virtuosoship have got an establishment in this situation can it be refused to the independent gentlemen who form the Society in Albermarle Street? Arthurs, which is the great Parent of all these Noble societies, & from whom the virtues & accomplishments of each are derived must certainly have a large area assign’d to it. There with Turrets on its head, like the Mother of the Gods, it shall rise proudly eminent, & survey its immortal progeny and thus shall a place where valetudinarians took their exercise, the aged & the infants sought for health & refreshment, & the people innocent recreation, be turn’d into a scene of riot & debauchery, & become the school of luxury, the Academy of Vice, & the Palaestra of Faction.


Taken from Bluestocking feminism : writings of the Bluestocking Circle, 1738-1785. London ; Brookfield, Vt. : Pickering & Chatto, 199, vol. 1, p. 167-168.