It may be a commonplace in English history that the Societies for the Reformation of Manners tilted at the windmills of "necessary liberties", even if their activities in the 1720s, as the number of convictions significantly rose, seemed to have achieved the success hoped for during a brief period. Under the raw capitalism of the post-revolution era and the impact of its secularisation, the English nation notoriously suffered from a lack of moral fibre, or as Paulson put it in the commentary on Hogarth's "Masquerade Ticket": "A social phenomenon stands secondarily for a political one; the point can be read either way: politics is reducible to sexual desire, or sexual desire is at the bottom of Britain's troubles." Permissiveness appears to be the principal result of the ongoing processes of urbanisation and secularisation. Bishop Francis Hare, one of the great minds of early 18th-century England and a prominent political churchman, preached on many festive and important occasions to the Whig establishment. Hare's 1730 sermon on, as I would like to put it here, encroaching secularization, or rather, on the achievements of the Societies for the Reformation of Manners provides a unique piece of cultural and ideological criticism for the period. Thus Hare's sermon provides an invaluable source of information on the awareness of cultural change among the Anglican clergy.
Disturbed by the rise of the Dissent, which Bishop Hare bitterly resented for all his life, many writers of the period attacked them as a menace to the nation, as Ned Ward described the presence in everyday life of a social phenomenon which was hardly adequately rendered in the annual sermons of the Societies. This is the raw material of reality, which poses a problem of categorization between the historian's reasoning and the extreme of emotion experienced by the writer who bore, fictitiously or not, witness to social change. So we can take this picture of London night life from "Hudibras Redivivus: or, A Burlesque Poem on the Times" (1705-07) for granted. "Hudibrastic" refers to Samuel Butler's anti-puritan satire the first part of which was published in 1663. In an age still dominated by religion, the Calvinistic fusion of religious fervour and acquisitive behaviour was a scandal to many. The hypocrisy of Dissenting capitalists was Ward's principal object of attack.
Some of the Religious Societies formed themselves into groups of informers. Whipped into a frenzy of indignation at prayer meetings and armed with a handbook describing, among others things, what it looked like to be drunk, they showed little mercy to the poor.
Historically, "Hudibras Redivivus" describes modern society as shaped by the Dissent:
The famous moral weeklies produced by Steele and Addison may be considered the nucleus of the rising middle-class culture of England. Both the Tatler and the Spectator bring a different point of view to this. Normally they just do not take any notice of what some historians now consider an important social movement, or they refer casually and ironically to it demonstrating their disregard. On a rare occasion, in Spectator No. 8 (9 March 1711), a letter from the director of one of the societies is printed. If this piece is authentic or just a fake by a clever journalist must still be decided by researchers. What should be definitely viewed with suspicion is the director's claim to being at the controls of the whole nation, presumably not only morally, and his pedant's stubbornness and the fanaticism with which the organisations have been spread street by street all over England. This craze for keeping the nation under constant surveillance is nothing less than a parody of the societies' self-display in many pamphlets. In the following, the director refers to a "Midnight Masque" which shows that the maxim is still accepted that vice is practiced by the respectable in private, while by the poor in public, which makes all the difference and which, in turn, takes up the powerful argument used by Defoe and Swift and others against the Reformers: "As all the Persons who compose this lawless Assembly are masqued, we dare not attack any of them in our Way, lest we should send a Woman of Quality to Bridewell or a Peer of Great-Britain to the Counter." (Spectator 8, 9 March 1711). Even Steele's way of dismissing claims for censuring the British stage or Tickell's casual remark in the Tatler, in 1709 and 1714 respectively, aim at bringing home to the Reformers their cultural defeat and their marginality: "The remonstrance of T.C. against the Profanation of the Sabbath by Barbers, Shoe-Cleaners, &c. had better be offered to the Societies of the Reformers." (Tatler 619, 1714). This sounds like letting his own side down, as, surprisingly enough, Steele seemed to have belonged to the active members of a Society.
The label of zealous fundamentalism stuck to the Reformers. Patrick Dillon argued that "The high church maverick Henry Sacheverell had criticised the Societies' campaigns as 'the unwarranted effects of an idle, incroaching, impertinent, and medling curiosity [...] the base product of ill-nature, spiritual pride, censoriousness and sanctified spleen." In his 1709 Sermon on The Communication of Sin, Sacheverell had attacked the Societies' tolerance to dissenters among their ranks. Francis Hare, the then Bishop of St. Asaph and Chichester and nearly Archbishop of Canterbury and former tutor to Robert Walpole held similar views for all his life. How important this argument still was in the early 1730s, can be seen in Hogarth's Harlot's Progress, Plate no. 3 (1732), entitled "Apprehended by a Magistrate" and referring to events in the preceding year. The evangelical magistrate Sir John Gonson, the most famous harlot-hunter of the period, appears in the rear and is counterbalanced by the portrait of Sacheverell in the foreground. Obviously, although siding with Captain Mackheath on the other portrait, the notorious preacher does not stand for chaos and disorder, but for his legendary defence of high-church interests and decency – two champions "of the right of the poor against the busybody reformers". The longevity of the conflict between High Church and Low Church may be telling, and it easily escapes the reader. The butt of Hogarth's emblematic criticism is the Walpole system; Hogarth leans on a nostalgic Tory vision of a better past before the dawn of capitalism, which had many prominent followers at the period.
In the following I would like to discuss point by point the tenets of Christian culture in Francis Hare's Sermon Preached to the Societies for Reformation of Manners in January 1730.Bristow takes up a quote by the Bishop of St. Asaph to summarize his main concern: "If the People of lower condition are at all reformed, the Societies are justified."
This means that the system of Christian norms cannot cope with migration in England and the concentration of a large part of the British population in London:
The immediate general cause of most Villanies is certainly the extreme Misery and Poverty great numbers are reduced to; but whence comes this Misery and Poverty? Come they not from a want of honest Industry, and of an early Education in the Principles of Piety and Virtue? The want of this has made Men vicious, and Vice has made them poor.(30)
The following quote reminds one of the famous passage in Book IV of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels describing the state of England:
For these Places are the Nurseries of all kinds of Impiety and Vice, the Harbours of lewd Women, who could not swarm as they do in our Streets, if they had not these Places to retreat to; the receptacles of Sharpers, Thieves, Gamesters, Bullies, and what not. Nothing is to be seen or heard in them but profane Cursing and Swearing, Lewdness of all kinds, Drinking, Gaming, Cheating, Fighting; nothing but what tends to the Destruction of Estate and Health, Parts and Reputation, to make a distemper'd Body, and infeeble and enervate the Mind, and render it insensible to every thing that is wise or good; nothing in short but what tends to the Ruin of the whole Man, Body and Soul, here and hereafter. (26-27)
[...…] are the middling People, the lower Orders of Men, more vicious than they were formerly? If they are not, the Objection affects not these Societies, for it is to these latter sort chiefly, if not wholly, they confine themselves; these are the men they endeavour to reform, upon whose Industry and Virtue the Strength and the Riches of the Nation so much depend." (23)
The system does not work because of corruption and political networking, which, by definition, are the same:
Whence is it we feel so little effect from such wholesome and good laws?"- "The Laws cannot execute themselves, they are but a dead letter." (6)
This obviously derives from the Cromwell era. Informing proved the Achilles heel of the movement as informers had never been accepted by the public, although they were necessary in court. Thus Hare was fighting a losing battle, whatever his reasons in favour of informers, which is rather an embarrassing whitewash. His rhetoric is getting more and more pompous:
But could men distinguish a little, and raise their Minds above vulgar Prejudices, they would see this point in quite another light. When Information is given to a Magistrate against profane and immoral Practices, from an honest Heart, that fears God and loves his Neighbour, when it stands clear of all imputations that can in the least blemish it, when it is not done for reward or to get Money by it, when it proceeds not from personal Pique or Revenge, but from disinterested Views, and a real concern for the Publick good, and even for the Party offending, when it is not made in Secret and in the Dark, but dares to come into the open Light, and he that makes it is ready not only to accuse, but to prove, what has such an Information in it that is odious besides the Name? (19)
A second paradox connected with it was the idea of the moral elite and their "conduct above reproach", which, in politics, especially in the aftermath of revolution, has always been the supreme illusion. In his 1702 satire on reforming Defoe had already expressed serious doubts.
And whatever Success they may have in reforming others, they can't possibly give a greater proof of their own Piety and Goodness; they have put themselves under a Necessity of being strictly Virtuous, since otherwise they could not fail to draw upon themselves the severest Censures. (21)End of quote – what they actually did.
How to rescue the English nation?
Indeed our Schools themselves are in general on a sad Foot, and highly deserve the Consideration of the Legislature, how to render them more useful; that the Time which is now employed for many years, and a great Expence, to learn nothing, or what to the greatest part will never be of any use, may be spent in forming their Minds and Manner to the best Advantage […]. (32)But secularisation had made deep inroads into the culture:
The Skirts of the Town on a Sunday Morning, in tolerable Weather, are as crowded with Sights of this kind, as if People were posting to some Fair or market; a most scandalous Sight, and a very great Indication of the dissoluteness of our Manners, and remissness of Family-Government. (38)
It is in truth come to that pass, that Licentiousness has taken the place and name of Liberty, and nothing is thought Liberty, which does not leave Men an unrestrained Power of saying and doing what they please, at least in every thing relating to themselves. Reasonable Liberty is a Language they don't understand; Liberty in their opinion, ceases to be so, the minute it comes under rules and limitations. (44)Of course, quite understandably, the press is the origin of moral decay:
Licentiousness every where prevails, and we feel the sad effects of it; it has produced [...] such a contempt of all Authority, whether Sacred or Civil, as was never before known in this Nation [...]. especially since this great Licentiousness of Manners is accompanied by a no less Licentiousness of the Press [...]. Infidelity is propagated with the greatest Industry, and religion treated as mere Imposture, an imposition upon Mankind [...]. The Licentiousness of this kind has been many Years growing upon us, but a love of Liberty would not let Men timely see what was aimed at. (47)Hare's conclusion, however, is, in a way, timelessly true: "How can Society subsist, if publick and private Faith, which are the cement of it, are destroyed?" (49)
As it appears, eighteenth-century culture could hardly be steered to something like social engineering and more sophisticated and job-oriented economic policies, and the underlying power structure took long to be changed. Defoe and Mandeville did the first vital step in modernising the appropriate paradigms of thought. Understandably, Hare was unable to adopt to the new conditions. Modern secular society can hardly be managed on the lines of public and private faith, however important they are.
 A minister complaining about the indifference of justices of peace referred under this heading to the new secular cultural norms; cf. Thomas Newman, Reformation or Mockery, argued, from the general use of the Lord's-Prayer: A Sermon Preach'd to the Societies for the Reformation of Manners at Salter's Hall, June 30, 1729 (London, 1729), 28.
 Ronald Paulson, Hogarth. Vol. 1: "The Modern Moral Subject" 1697-1732 (New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 1991), 169.
 Hare was offered the post of usher of the Exchequer by Walpole in 1722 and was later 'shortlisted' for the see of Canterbury; see Alexander Pettit, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, s.v. Hare (www.oxforddnb.com); Pettit, "The Francis Hare Controversy of 1732," British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 17 (1994), 41-53, here: 42; see the chapter "Vom geistlichen Gelehrten zum Prediger der Kriegsfraktion" ['from the learned reverend to the preacher of the war party'] in the exhaustive study by Jens Metzdorf, Politik – Propaganda – Patronage. Francis Hare und die englische Publizistik im Spanischen Erbfolgekrieg (Mainz: von Zabern, 2000), 78-97; and Heinz-Joachim Müllenbrock, The Culture of Contention. A Rhetorical Analysis of the Political Controversy about the Ending of the War of the Spanish Succession, 1710-1713 (München: Fink, 1997), passim. Hare was appointed Chaplain General to the Duke of Marlborough and the keeper of his military journal, cf. Robert D. Horn, "Marlborough's First Biographer: Dr. Francis Hare," Huntingdon Library Quarterly 20: 2 (1957), 145-162, here 147.
 A Sermon Preached to the Societies for Reformation of Manners (January 1730).
 See also Shelley Burtt, "The Societies for the Reformation of Manners: between John Locke and the Devil in Augustan England," The Margins of Orthodoxy. Heterodox Writing and Cultural Response, 1660-1750, ed. by Peter Lund (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 163.
 Cf. John Spurr, "The Church, the Societies and the Moral Revolution of 1688," The Church of England c. 1689 – c. 1833 , ed. by . John Walsh, Colin Haydon, and Stephen Taylor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 136.
 Ibid., 156.
 Cf. Robert B. Shoemaker, "Reforming the City: The Reformation of Manners Campaign in London, 1690-1738," Stilling the Grumbling Hive. The Response to Social and Economic Problems in England, 1689-1750, ed. by Lee Davidson, Tim Hitchcock, Tim Keirn and Robert B. Shoemaker (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992), 99.
 Craig Rose, England in the 1690s: Revolution, Religion and War (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 207; 209.
 Cf. Roy Porter, "Enlightenment and Pleasure," Pleasure in the Eighteenth Century, ed. by Roy Porter and Marie Mulvey Roberts (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996), 17.
 Cf. Julian Hoppit, A Land of Liberty? England 1689 – 1727 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2000), 417.
 Cf. Pat Rogers, The Augustan Vision (London: Methuen, 1974), 106; George Rudé, Hanoverian London 1714-1808 (Phoenix Mill: Sutton, 2003 ), 34-35. Rudé refers to Maitland's account in the History of London (1806). For the rise of the oligarchy and the middle classes see Paul Langford, A Polite and Commercial People. England 1727-1783 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1989), chap. 3.
 Augustan Vision, 106.
 Cf. for a good survey Terry Castle, Masquerade and Civilization: the Carnivalesque in Eighteenth-century English Culture and Fiction (London: Methuen, 1986). One of the best descriptions of a masked ball was provided by Ned Ward, The Amorous Bugbears (1725).
 Hoppit, A Land of Liberty?, 442.
 Cf. Edward J. Bristow, Vice and Vigilance. Purity Movements in Britain since 1700 (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1977); see, however, Shoemaker, "Reforming the City".
 In Ward's generation Butler was held in high esteem. Hudibras was reprinted in 1704, 1710 (with illustrations) and in 1726 with illustrations by Hogarth. See Paulson, Hogarth, Vol. 1, 142-49.
 See the hitherto only monograph by Howard W. Troyer, Ned Ward of Grub Street. A Study of Sub-Literary London in the Eighteenth Century (London: Frank Cass, 1968 ).
 Bristow, Vice and Vigilance, 18.
 Hudibras Redivivus; Or, A Burlesque Poem on the Times (London, 1705-1706).
 See Bristow, Vice and Vigilance, 19.
 The Much Lamented Death of Madam Geneva (2002).
 Burtt, "Societies for the Reformation of Manners", 58.
 Cf. Alex Pettit in DNB.
 Bristow, Vice and Vigilance, 19. This seems to be more to the point than Ronald Paulson's sophisticated reference to an underlying discussion of deism. Paulson, however, is not wholly consistent with the combination of High-Church ideology and the concern for poverty and squalor among the lower classes. See Paulson, Hogarth. Vol.1, 20-21, 294-95, 298-99.
 A Sermon Preached to the Societies for Reformation of Manners: at St. Mary-le-Bow, on Tuesday January the 5th, 1730. By ... Francis Lord Bishop of St. Asaph (London, 1731), 24; unless otherwise noted, I am quoting from this microfilmed edition.
 Dillon, Madam Geneva, 44.