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The streets of eighteenth-century London were teeming with craftsmen and traders who offered their wares and services with their specific street cries. John Gay depicts the motley scene of the metropolis authentically in his urban georgic Trivia; or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London (1716). With an air of gentle mockery he deals with the question, "What Trades are Prejudicial to Walkers", and he warns the members of the beau monde in their fashionable "youthful colours" to beware of the "sullying trades", particularly in the morning. Thus, he advises his reader to steer clear of the "little chimney-sweeper", "the dust-man" and - of course - the coal-dealer:

  When small-coal murmurs in the hoarser throat,
From smutty dangers guard thy threaten'd coat.1

In the years about 1700 one particular sonorous voice often towered above the diffused and dissonant street cries of the trading mob, the bass of the coal merchant Thomas Britton (1654?-1714),

  who from beginning with two plain notes, which made up his daily cry, [...] made himself master of the whole compass of the gamut.2

However, Britton was well-known in London not only as a coal dealer. He was held in high esteem also as a collector of books and as a virtuoso, but, first of all, as a talented amateur musician and as a pioneer of the public concert. It was primarily in that role that he "was universally known to all Lovers of Musick, of what Quality soever".3 Jonathan Swift could, therefore, be certain that his London readers would be able to understand his allusion to Britton when he made a singing coal-dealer appear among the petty and shady figures of the mob in "A Description of the Morning" (1709):

  The Smallcoal-Man was heard with Cadence deep,
'Till drown'd in Shriller Notes of Chimney-Sweep.4

In Swift's poem Britton stands out from the uncleanly, shabby urban scene as a dominant figure, and he is introduced without any tinge of satire. Satirical mockery would have been amiss anyway, as Britton possessed a completely stainless image. Already during his lifetime, he was held in high repute as an upright, honest, industrious man without snobbish attitudes and social aspirations. Competent first-hand information about him can be found in Edward Ward's History of the London Clubs:5 The writer and publican "Ned" Ward lived in the immediate neighbourhood "of the black and blue Philomat"6 in Clerkenwell, and was presumably himself at times among the visitors of the concerts that were given in Britton's "little Mansion"7 every Thursday:

  Like a prudent Man, though he might justly boast a great many Qualifications above any of his Level, yet he never suffered the Flatteries of his Betters to lift him above the Care of his Employment; for though he always took Delight to spend his leisure Hours in the Studies of a Gentleman, yet he limitted his Industry to the Trade he had been bred to; [...] the Prudence of his Deportment, among those who were his Betters, procured him great Respect from all that knew him, so that his Musick Meeting improved in a little Time to be very considerable, insomuch, that Men of the best Wit, as well as some of the best Quality, very often honoured his musical Society with their good Company, that in a few Years his harmonious Consort became as publickly noted as the Kit-Cat Club [...]. Briton, when equiped in his blue Surplice, his Shoulder laden with his wooden Tinder, and his Measure twisted into the Mouth of his Sack, was as much distinguished as he walked the Streets [...], as if he had been a Noble Man in disguise, [...] every one that knew him, pointing as he passed crying, There goes the famous Small-Coal-Man, who is a Lover of Learning, a Performer in Musick, and a Companion for a Gentleman.8

Many of his contemporaries were fascinated by Britton's personality and by his leisure-time occupations that were quite unusual for a member of his comparatively low social group. This can be seen from some laudatory poems, but also from several mentions in reputed periodicals of his time. Moreover, the interest in him was not extinguished after his sudden death in the autumn of 1714. The antiquary Thomas Hearne occupies himself with Britton in the appendix to his Hemingi Chartularii Ecclesiae Wygorniensis (1723).9 Horace Walpole deals with him in his Anecdotes of Painting in England (1762).10 In his General History of the Science and Practice of Music (1776) John Hawkins, the famous music historian, writes about him in detail. In addition, Britton is taken notice of in a series of nineteenth-century biographical reference works11 as well as in the Dictionary of National Biography (1908/09). - The articles about the "musical small-coal man" give surprisingly uniform descriptions of Britton's personality, which may be explained by the fact that they all drew upon Ward's and Hearne's accounts as primary sources of biographical information, and that there existed no further sources that made possible a more detailed biographical exploration.

By his contemporaries the musical small-coal man was not looked upon as a crank or as an eccentric and odd character. Although being counted among the uneducated "poorer sort" he was praised for his intellectual open-mindedness, his sensibility in matters of art, and his wide reading. These qualities disproved an old prejudice according to which the members of the lower stations of society,

  [who ...] are obliged to labour for their Support, [...] are generally Persons of strong Bodies and weak Minds; [and ...] are often out of Humour with their Condition.12

The most important reasons why the contemporaries admired Britton are expressed in two little panegyrical post mortems written by John Hughes13 and Matthew Prior. The tenor of the two poems is almost identical. Both of them draw attention to Britton's honest character and to his modesty, and they both point to his willing acceptance of his social position, - quite in accordance with the traditional ordo-concept and the Christian idea that true happiness is the "content, quiet and inward satisfaction of a man's mind".14 By implication, this traditional idea is referred to by Hughes's memorial verses: Although Britton had to work hard in order to make his modest living he led a happy life and almost embodied the type of the "beatus ille", who spends his days in complete harmony with his own self, and who is guided by unpretentious self-content. Britton was free enough to unfold his common sense, to study sciences, and to devote himself to the arts and to music:

  Tho' mean thy Rank, yet in thy humble Cell
Did gentle Peace, and Arts unpurchas'd dwell;
Well pleas'd Apollo thither led his Train,
And Musick warbled in her sweetest Strain.
Cyllenius so, as Fables tell, and Jove
Came willing Guests to poor Philemon's Grove.
Let useless Pomp behold, and blush to find
So low a Station, such a liberal Mind.15

In paradoxical statements Prior directs the reader's attention to the singular symbiosis of the trivial workaday activities and the dedicated cultivation of the arts. He sets forth that Britton was not intent on money and riches and that he rather preferred the wealth of the intellect and of learning. Characterizing the small-coal dealer as a man who was "famous without pride", he marks a humane position that is in strong contrast to the common urge of men "to quit their sphere",16 to show off their knowledge and their material achievements. Thus, for Prior, just as for Hughes, Britton illustrates the optimistic view of the enlightenment that humaneness, sense and learning are not necessarily confined to the higher stations in the social hierarchy. Moreover, it becomes obvious that a commitment to the arts was no longer a privilege of the upper, well-to-do, exquisitely educated groups of society:

  Tho' doom'd to small-coal, yet to arts ally'd,
Rich without wealth, and famous without pride;
Musick's best patron, judge of books and men,
Belov'd and honour'd by Apollo's train;
In Greece or Rome sure never did appear
So bright a genius in so dark a sphere;
More of the man had artfully been sav'd,
Had Kneller painted, and had Vertue grav'd.17

Hughes's and Prior's estimation of Britton's "vertu" was shared by Thomas Hearne. He, too, emphasizes that Britton was equally respected by members of all social groups, and he argues that this was due to his modest style of life, his moral integrity, and his scholarly knowledge:

  He was an extraordinary and very valuable Man, much admired by the Gentry, even those of the best Quality, and by all others of the more inferiour Rank, that had any manner of Regard for Probity, Sagacity, Diligence, and Humility. I say Humility, because, tho' he was so much fam'd for his Knowledge, and might, therefore, have lived very reputably without his Trade, yet he continued it to his Death, not thinking it to be at all beneath him.18

The early articles about Thomas Britton do not contain detailed chronologies of his life. They mainly serve to depict the character of the famous smallcoal man and to describe his social role as well as his bibliophile and his musical activities. Among the points of interest are - above all - the conditions of the concerts in the loft of his - rather poor - house, which "stood the next Door to the little Gate of St. John's of Jerusalem next Clarken-Well-Green".19 Ned Ward, the scribbling publican, describes the place amusingly:

  The Hut wherein he dwells, which has long been honoured with such good Company, looks without Side as if some of his Ancestors had happened to be Executors to old snorling [sic!] Diogenes, and that they had carefully transplanted the Athenian-Tub into Clerkenwell; for his House is not much higher than a Canary Pipe, and the Window of his State-Room, but very little bigger than the Bunghole of a Cask.20

A narrow and steep staircase outside the building led up to the concert room, which was situated just above the coal depot. The staircase must have been an almost insurmountable obstacle for the concert visitors, particularly the elegant ladies in their fashionable wide robes. Ned Ward makes his neighbour Britton utter some clumsy verses inviting to his concerts and warning against the dangers of the notorious "henhouse ladder":

       Upon Thursday's Repair
     To my Palace, and there
     Hobble up Stair by Stair;
     But I pray ye take Care
That you break not your Shins by a Stumble,
     And without e'er a Souse,
     Paid to me or my Spouse,
     Sit as still as a Mouse
     At the Top of my House,
And there you shall hear how we fumble.21

Reading these lines one might think that Britton's music meetings were no more than rather amateurish and informal performances. However, that is not the case. Britton's concerts, which had been called to life as early as 1678, must be ranked among the earliest successful initiatives in the history of professional concert culture in London. They figured high in public opinion as can, for instance, be seen from the title-page of the Sale Catalogue of Britton's large collection of music and instruments, which was published only a few months after his death in 1714:

  [Britton] at his own charge kept up so excellent a consort forty odd years at his dwelling-house, that the best masters were at all times proud to exert themselves therein; and persons of the highest quality desirous of honouring his humble cottage with their presence and attention.22

The high standard of Britton's concerts was guaranteed by the many "capital"23 performers that Britton brought together in his loft. His consort consisted partly of professionals, partly of able amateur musicians. Ward relates that the influential journalist, Sir Roger L'Estrange, was among the founder members of the ensemble, and he underlines that Sir Roger was "a very musical Gentleman, [...] who had a tollerable Perfection of the Base-Viol".24 Among Britton's strings was also John Banister, "who played the first violin at Drury-lane theatre, and was esteemed one of the best performers in his time".25 Further consort members were John Hughes and the music-enthusiast Henry Needler "of the Excise-office", who had been "instructed in the principles of harmony" by Purcell and afterwards become a pupil of John Banister.26 The portraitist J. Woolaston, too, belonged to the consort, being a "sound performer" on the violin and the flute.27 Another well-known player was the organist and composer Philip Hart28 as well as the organist Obadiah Shuttleworth, "a teacher of music, and a transcriber of Corelli's works", who is said to have learned to play the violin primarily in order to be admitted as a member of Britton's consort.29 John Christopher Pepusch, professor of music and composer, "presided at the harpsichord, 'a Rucker's virginal, thought to be the best in Europe'".30 The famous violin-virtuoso Matthew Dubourg made his début as a child with Britton:

  The first solo that ever he played in public, and which probably was one of Corelli's, he played at Britton's concert, standing upon a joint-stool; but so terribly was the poor child awed at the sight of so splendid an assembly, that he was near falling to the ground.31

However, the most celebrated player was Georg Friedrich Händel, who "played the organ (which had only five stops)".32 Thomas Britton himself was not only a committed organizer and manager, but also an able musician, who had a good command of the recorder and who "frequently played the viol da gamba in his own concert".33 Eventually, he composed little pieces of music now and then, - minuets, bourrees, gigues, airs, marches, etc.34

John Hawkins was among the first to point out the historic importance of Britton's "musical club" and to underline that this form of public concert was a meritorious innovation in London public life:

  The truth is, it was nothing less than a musical concert; and so much more does it merit our attention, as it was the first meeting of the kind, and the undoubted parent of some of the most celebrated concerts in London.35

In the later seventeenth century there had been public operatic performances. Chamber music had been practised primarily as an elegant pastime in bourgeois and aristocratic circles.36 And, of course, there had also been

  musical entertainments given to the people in Music-houses, [...] the performers in which consisted of fiddlers and others, hired by the master of the house; such as in the night season were wont to parade the city and suburbs [...]. The music of these men could scarcely be called a concert, for this obvious reason that it had no variety of parts, nor commixture of different instruments: half a dozen of fiddlers would scrape Sellenger's Round, or John come kiss me, or Old Simon the King with divisions, till themselves and their audience were tired, after which as many players on the hautboy would in the most harsh and discordant tones grate forth Green Sleves [sic!], Yellow Stockings, Gillian of Croydon, or some such common dance-tune, and the people thought it fine music.37

In contrast to the din and fray of the light and vulgar dance music in the "Music-houses", Hawkins characterizes the new type of concert as "a sober recreation", and he adds that

  persons were drawn to it, not by an affectation of admiring what they could not taste, but by a genuine pleasure which they took in the entertainment.38

The typical visitor of Britton's concerts would be dedicated to the contemporary chamber music. Listening to the compositions of British and French, Italian and German masters would give him "pleasure, excitement, and emotional enrichment",39 and would be an exquisite artistic treat for him.

It is quite certain that Britton's concerts were not given to the vulgar that gathered in "Music-houses". It is also clear that his concerts were not reserved to the privileged, well-to-do and leisured groups of society only. Nevertheless, Ward informs us, "Men of the best Wit, as well as some of the best Quality, very often honoured his musical Society with their good Company".40 This statement is confirmed by a note in the Diary of the antiquary and topographer Ralph Thoresby, who noted down on 5 June 1712:

  In our way home called at Mr. Britton's, the noted small-coal man, where we heard a noble concert of music, vocal and instrumental, the best in town, which for many years past he has had weekly for his own entertainment, and of the gentry, &c., gratis, to which most foreigners of distinction, for the fancy of it, occasionally resort.41

Hawkins, too, remarks that the visitors of Britton's concerts were recruited from different social strata: Music, thus, had become a medium that led people together almost irrespective of their social status. In order to demonstrate that even aristocratic circles were interested in the music given by Britton's consort he mentions the Duchess of Queensbury who often visited his "hovel":

  [His] mansion, despicable as it may seem, attracted to it as polite an audience as ever the opera did; and a lady of the first rank in this kingdom, the duchess of Queensbury, now living, one of the most celebrated beauties of her time, may yet remember that in the pleasure which she manifested at hearing Mr. Britton's concert, she seemed to have forgotten the difficulty with which she ascended the steps that led to it.42

From about the end of the seventeenth century onwards people were increasingly taking delight in social gatherings in clubs and coffee houses, at the theatre and the opera, at balls and races. "The SMALL-COAL-MAN'S Musick Club" must be seen in this context. There can be no doubt that it was a typical phenomenon within the spreading club-culture at the beginning of the eighteenth century.43 In addition, it shows the increased interest in elevated public entertainment, as well as the greater dedication to the arts. Finally, it reveals that the communication between the burgeoning middle class and the aristocratic "betters" had become remarkably unproblematic. So, it is not surprising that the renowned British Mercury took notice of the "musical smallcoal man['s]" death in September 1714, and brought to recollection that Britton had kept his consort "at his own Expence, [...] for the Entertainment of his Friends and his own Satisfaction", but also for "all Lovers of Musick",44 irrespective of their station in society.

In a way, Britton's concert initiative is indicative of the increased self-assurance of middle-class society, which had developed in the course of the seventeenth century and which had been strengthened particularly by the bourgeois awareness to be a central pillar of the economic prosperity of the country. The new awareness of its social importance among the middle class accompanied the wish for more knowledge and better education, and the conviction of being a match intellectually for the hitherto dominating educated social groups. In this respect, too, Britton must be regarded as an outstanding example: For - though a "self-made man" without any academic education - he was renowned as a serious bibliophile and antiquary, as well as a competent collector

  of all sorts of curiosities, particularly drawings, prints, books, manuscripts on uncommon subjects, as mystic divinity, the philosopher's stone, judicial astrology, and magic; and musical instruments, both in and out of vogue.45

The titles of the two printed sale catalogues give an impression of the breadth of his interests. The first catalogue of the year 1694 contains "a curious Collection of Books in Divinity, History, Physick and Chimistry, in all Volumes. Also an Extraordinary Collection of Manuscripts in Latin and English". The posthumous catalogue of the year 1715 draws up "a curious Collection of very Ancient and Uncommon Books, in DIVINITY, HISTORY, PHYSICK, CHYMISTRY, MAGICK, &c. in all Volumes. Also a Collection of MSS. chiefly on Vellum". We can only guess why Britton sold his library or - at least - parts of it in the nineties; there may have been capital requirements, - possibly for the enlargement of his music collection.

From the eighteenth century onwards the descriptions of Britton's life have referred to the fact that the musical small-coal man regularly visited book shops in the London city and that he enjoyed talking shop with other - partly aristocratic - bibliophiles whenever the opportunity offered itself. One of the interesting persons to talk to was Robert Harley (1661-1724), the first Earl of Oxford, the founder of the "Harleian Library";46 Britton had contact with Charles Spencer (1674-1722), the third Earl of Sunderland, who instituted the famous library at Althorp;47 moreover, he was in touch with Thomas Herbert (1656-1733), the eighth Earl of Pembroke,48 with Charles Finch (1672-1712), the third Earl of Winchilsea, with William Cavendish (1640-1707), the first Duke of Devonshire,49 and with others:

  These noblemen in the winter season, on Saturdays, the parliament not sitting on that day, used to resort to the city, and dividing themselves, took different routes, some to Little Britain, some to Moorfields, and others to different parts of the town inhabited by booksellers. There they would inquire in the several shops as they passed along for old books and manuscripts; and some time before noon would assemble at the shop of Christopher Bateman, a bookseller at the corner of Ave Maria Lane, in Paternoster-row, where they were frequently met by other persons engaged in the same pursuits. A conversation on the subject of their inquiries ensued, and while they were thus engaged and as near as possible to the hour of twelve by St. Paul's clock, Britton, who by that time had finished his round, arrived clad in his blue frock, and pitching his sack of small coal on the bulk of Mr. Bateman's shop window, would go in and join them.50

It is a fascinating idea that on some of these occasions Britton met Jonathan Swift, who - during his London years (1709-1714) - enjoyed visiting book-stalls and haggling about cheap prizes, as described in one of his Horace-imitations of the year 1713, in which he humorously caricatures himself as a "Parson near Whitehall, / Cheapning old Authors on a Stall".51 Of course, we cannot definitely prove that Britton became personally acquainted with Swift. It is, however, quite certain that there existed personal contacts between Swift and the bibliophiles named above so that it appears not improbable that Britton and Swift met sometime or other in that circle of book collectors: Swift and Harley "shared an interest in English history which Harley demonstrated [...] by the large-scale acquisition of historical manuscripts as a part of the great library he was in the process of assembling".52 Swift was on friendly terms with Winchilsea which is hinted at in the Journal to Stella.53 And he described Sunderland - whom he had first met in Wood Park - as an "old acquaintance": "Since he had also assembled a virtuoso's library, [he] could call him 'a most learned' lord".54 Finally, Swift esteemed the Earl of Pembroke and paid him a visit once at least "to see some curious Books".55

Beyond his interests in music, in books and manuscripts Britton had an expert knowledge in chemistry and numismatics, and he was a versed collector of curiosities and rarities. Taken all in all, he was a typical "virtuoso", i.e. a learned dilettante, who engaged himself in the sciences and in the arts primarily for the sake of personal enrichment and private pleasure.56

Originally, the virtuoso was "clearly a man of wealth and leisure: he [was] a gentleman, and [...] the movement was strongly class-conscious".57 Britton differs from the earlier virtuosi by the fact that he belongs to a lower station in society, that he lacks an exquisite learned education, and that he has to work hard for his living. Quite obviously, the old social criteria had lost their prominent importance about the turn of the eighteenth century: It is characteristic of the changed view that members of higher social groups noticed Britton's exceptional abilities and skills, and that they respected his outstanding achievements as a self-made man, with regard both to his scholarly activities and to his musical commitments.

It is, therefore, not surprising at all that Thomas Britton, already during his lifetime, became an object of sociological speculation, particularly in the context of the then topical ideas concerning the positive evaluation of human individuality:

  A new view was formulating concerning the relation of the individual to society, a view which set special values upon genius and humour, an individualistic drive that tended to the diversification of mankind.58

The article most relevant in this respect was published about one year before Britton's death. It is to be found in the Guardian [no. 144] of Wednesday, August 26, 1713. In it the author - probably Richard Steele - considers the peculiarities of the British national character.59

It is not a matter of chance that Steele uses a quotation from Phaedrus as the motto of his essay, - "Sua cuique quam sit animi cogitatio, Colorque privus -----. PHAEDR. Prol. v. ver. 7 Every man has his peculiar way of thinking and acting".60 He then refers back to Sir William Temple's essay "Of Poetry", in which Temple had dealt with the "British humours":

  We come to have more originals [than our neighbours], and more that appear what they are. We have more humour, because every man follows his own, and takes pleasure, perhaps a pride, to shew it.61

Temple is of opinion that the British humours - i.e. British individualism - are closely connected with the peculiarities of British climate,62 but also with "the ease of our government" and the liberty "of professing opinions and factions" primarily gained by the Glorious Revolution. Steele emphasizes that individualism is not confined to the higher circles of society and that it can also be found among the men and women of the lower groups of British society. Individualism, thus, appears as the distinguishing feature of the British,

  [while] some [other] nations look as if they were cast all in one mould, or cut out all by one pattern, at least the common people in one, and the gentlemen in another.63

Similar thoughts were expressed in William Congreve's essay Concerning Humour in Comedy (1695). For Temple, as well as for Congreve, humour is a natural disposition, which is fundamentally different from wit acquired by studies or improved by exercise. Congreve had characterized humour as a "singular and unavoidable manner of doing or saying any thing, Peculiar and Natural to one Man only, by which his Speech and Actions are distinguish'd from those of other men".64 Humour, then, is the quintessence of human individuality; it is independent of social rank.65 Thus Swift, for instance, insisted in The Intelligencer of 25 May 1728: "We observe it [humour] sometimes among common Servants, and the meanest of the People, while the very Owners are often ignorant of the Gift they possess".66 Significantly, this idea was for Swift more than a mere theoretical position. His manners were habitually easy with common people, whose humour he observed diligently, not at all "regardful of [his] age and station".67

Swift's attitude was certainly exemplary in his time: There was an increasing interest in the "common people"; this [enlightened view] interest was - partly at least - based on the observation that among the "common people" there were to be found specimens that possessed outstanding talents and abilities and were able to make the best of them. So, it is not surprising that the "thresher poet" Stephen Duck attracted considerable public attention, and that his female counterpart Mary Collier, the rhyming washerwoman, also roused some interest.68 It goes without saying that Thomas Britton must be seen in this context. The Guardian essay repeats the prevalent views of the "humours" and of the British national character, and then adds one important new aspect: The "variety of original and odd characters" in England is not at all accompanied by irrational thinking or behaviour; on the contrary: although the English tend to be "original and odd characters", they are led by their common sense. Thus, it seems as if the author regards the humorous individual as the ideal type of the Englishman, not considering the affiliation with a particular social "degree" or the existence of possessions. He goes even so far as to maintain that the "variety of original and odd characters" is the cause of the fact that "the number of shining geniuses" is so high in England:

  It is a very just, and a common observation upon the natives of this island, that in their different degrees, and in their several professions and employments, they abound as much, and perhaps more, in good sense than any people; and yet, at the same time, there is scarce an Englishman of any life and spirit, that has not some odd cast of thought, some original humour that distinguishes him from his neighbour. [...] This national mark is visible among us in every rank and degree of men, from the persons of the first quality and politest sense, down to the rudest and most ignorant of the people. Every mechanic has a peculiar cast of head and turn of wit, or some uncommon whim, as a characteristic that distinguishes him from others of his trade, as well as from the multitudes that are upon a level with him. We have a small-coal man,* [*Mr. Thomas Breton.] who from beginning with two plain notes, which made up his daily cry, has made himself master of the whole compass of the gamut, and has frequently concerts of music at his own house, for the entertainment of himself and his friends. There is a person of great hospitality, who lives in a plastered cottage upon the road to Hampstead, and gets superfluity of wealth, by accommodating holiday passengers with ale, brandy, pipes, tobacco, cakes, gingerbread, apples, pears, and other small refreshments of life; and on workdays takes the air in his chaise, and recreates himself with the elegant pleasures of the beau-monde.69

Both the musical small-coal man and the clever publican are placed in the limelight as "shining men amongst our mob", and they are both characterized as outstanding examples of the variety of original English humours. The criteria for selecting these two common men are quite different: Britton is famous for his musical activities and skills, whereas the wealthy publican is worth mentioning for his efficiency and success in business matters which enable him to participate in an elegant and leisured life-style. The essayist sneers at neither of the two self-made men, and he is far from regarding them as snobs. They rather appear to him as two impressive figureheads of the "frank and generous disposition" of the English, of their freedom of "thinking, speaking, and acting".70 The speaker is proud of these qualities, not least as they appear to him as guarantors of peace of the country.

For his contemporaries and for the succeeding generations Britton was, by no means, a curious person or crank that was inquisitively gaped at, and that was sneered at for his musical and virtuoso aspirations. Instead, he was considered an example of the strengthened self-assurance of the middle class and of its confidence in its natural dispositions, its abilities, and skills. In a still broader sense he was viewed as a paragon of Englishness.



For the linguistic support that I received for this article I should like to thank Carolyn Edrich, Erlangen.

1 John Gay, "Trivia: Or, The Art of Walking the Streets of London", Bk. II, l. 35 f., The Poetical Works of John Gay, ed. G.C. Faber, London 1969, 66.

2 The Guardian, No. 144, 26 August 1713; quoted in The British Essayists, ed. Robert Lynam, 30 vols., London 1827, XI, 184.

3 The British Mercury, 6 October 1714; quoted in The Spectator, No. 597 (September 22, 1714), ed. Donald F. Bond, 5 vols., Oxford 1965, V, 42n.

4 Jonathan Swift, "A Description of the Morning", The Poems of Jonathan Swift, ed. Harold Williams, 3 vols., Oxford 1966 [1937], I, 124.

5 The chapter on "The Small-Coal Man's Music Club" is quoted from [Edward Ward] A Compleat and Humorous Account of all the Remarkable Clubs and Societies in the Cities of London and Westminster, London 1745. - For information on the London clubs, see Robert Joseph Allen, The Clubs of Augustan London, Cambridge. 1933. - For Ned Ward see John Hawkins, A General History of the Science and Practice of Music, London 1875 [1776], ed. by Othmar Wessely, 2 vols., Graz 1969, II, 789: "Of the origin of Britton's concert we have an account written by a near neighbour of his, one who dwelt in the same parish, and indeed but a small distance from him, namely, the facetious Mr. Edward Ward, the author of the London Spy, and many doggerel poems, coarse, it is true, but not devoid of humour and pleasantry. Ward at the time kept a public-house in Clerkenwell, and there sold ale of his own brewing."

6 Ward, 300.

7 Ward, 300. - Britton's house "was situated on the south side of Aylesbury-street, which extends from Clerkenwell-green to St. John's-street, and was the corner house of that passage leading by the old Jerusalem tavern, under the gateway of the priory, into St. John's-square" (Hawkins, 790).

8 Ward, 300 f.

9 Title from Hawkins, 788. Hearne's remarks on Britton are to be found in Hawkins, 788 f.

10 Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting in England, London 1871 [1786], 299.

11 The articles on Britton have been collected in British Biographical Archive: a one-alphabet cumulation of 324 of the most important English-language biographical reference works originally published between 1601 and 1929, ed. Paul Sieveking. München 1984. [Microfiche edition]

12 St. James Journal, No. 3 (May 17, 1722); quoted from Klaus Degering, Defoes Gesellschaftskonzeption, Amsterdam 1977, 69.

13 In a note John Hawkins remarks: "These verses were written by Mr. John Hughes, who was a frequent performer on the violin at Britton's concert: they are printed in the first volume of his Poems, published in 1735; and are also under one of two mezzotinto prints of Britton" (Hawkins, 789).

14 Robert South, Sermons (1727), IV, 496-97 (sermon no. 11, on Luke XII.15) mentions the peasant as an example: "And the poor, labouring peasant, with his coarse fare, and a good conscience to season, and make a feast of it, feeds as chearfully, and with as much inward satisfaction, as his great landlord, or flourishing neighbour can; for the most part, as much of real enjoyment under the meanest cottage, as within the walls of the stateliest and most magnificent palaces. For does not the honest plowman, whose strength is his whole estate, and his day's work his revenue, carry about him as light an heart, and as clear a breast, as he who commands armies, or can call thirty-five millions his own?" [quoted from Irvin Ehrenpreis, "Poverty and Poetry. Representations of the Poor in Augustan Literature", The Modernity of the 18th Century, ed. Louis T. Milic, Cleveland & London 1971, 7]

15 Quoted from Hawkins, 789.

16 Alexander Pope, "An Essay on Man: Epistle I", l. 124, The Poems of Alexander Pope, ed. John Butt, London 1963, 509.

17 Quoted from Hawkins, 790.

18 Quoted from Hawkins, 789.

19 Hearne, quoted from Hawkins, 788.

20 Ward, 302.

21 Ward, 303.

22 Quoted from Hawkins, 792.

23 Hawkins, 791.

24 Ward, 300.

25 Hawkins, 806. - For more biographical information concerning John Banister see The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, 20 vols., London 1980, II, 117 f.

26 Hawkins, 791, 806.

27 Hawkins, 807.

28 For Hart see Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, 21 vols., London 1908/09, IX, 63.

29 For Shuttleworth see DNB, XVIII, 175; for more biographical details see Hawkins, 826.

30 See article on Britton in DNB, II, 1270. - Pepusch wrote a trio sonata entitled "Smallcoal" (New Grove, "Britton", III, 308); for more biographical information see New Grove, XIV, 357-60.

31 Hawkins, 791.

32 DNB, II, 1270. Among the players in Britton's consort was Abiell Whichello, who was "organist of the church of St. Edmund the King, and taught the harpsichord in some of the best families in the city. He composed many songs, which have been separately printed, and a collection of lessons for the harpsichord or spinnet, containing Almands, Courants, Sarabands, Airs, Minuets, and Jigs" (Hawkins, 826). Another performer was Obadiah Shuttleworth, the "organist of the church of St. Michael, Cornhill, London; [he] was elected to that place upon Mr. Hart's quitting it, and a few years after was appointed one of the organists of the Temple church. [...] Obadiah [...] played the violin to such a degree of perfection, as gave him a rank among the first masters of the time. He played the first violin at the Swan concert in Corn Hill, [...] He was besides a very good composer" (Hawkins, 826).

33 Hawkins, 791.

34 Some of them are preserved in Add. Ms. 22098 [BM]; for examples of his skill as a composer see Musik für Blockflöte. Aus dem Notenbüchlein des Thomas Britton. Duos für Altblockflöten, hg. Percy M. Young, 4. Auflage, Leipzig: VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, 1988.

35 Hawkins, 789.

36 See Hawkins, 762.

37 Hawkins, 762.

38 Hawkins, 762 f.

39 Ernst H. Meyer, "Concerted Chamber Music", Concert Music: 1630-1750, ed. Gerald Abraham [New Oxford History of Music, VI], Oxford 1986, 378.

40 Ward, 301.

41 DNB, II, 1270.

42 Hawkins, 790.

43 See Robert J. Allen, The Clubs of Augustan London, repr., Hamden, Conn. 1967.

44 The British Mercury, quoted in The Spectator, V, 42n.

45 Walpole, 299.

46 For information on the foundation and the development of "Harleian Library" see Edward Edwards, Memoirs of Libraries: Including a Handbook of Library Economy, 2 vols., London: Trübner & Co. 1859, I, 434-439.

47 For details see Edward Edwards, Libraries and Founders of Libraries, New York: G.P. Philes, 1865, 382-389, 392-447.

48 "He is described as a man of 'eminent virtue,' and of great learning, especially in mathematics. [...] He was president of the Royal Society in 1689-90; and as a virtuoso and collector of 'statues, dirty gods, and coins' had a high reputation" (DNB, IX, 668 f.).

49 "He was a good Latin scholar, and especially a student of Horace, acquainted with Homer and Plutarch, so fine a critic that Lord Roscommon entrusted to him his poems for correction, and an admirable judge of art and music" (DNB, III, 1279 ff.).

50 G.H. Wilson, "Thomas Britton", Wonderful Characters, 3 vols., (1830); quoted from British Biographical Archive, 314 f.

51 "Part of the Seventh Epistle of the First Book of Horace Imitated", Poems of Swift, ed. Williams, I, 170.

52 See Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift. The Man, his Works, and the Age, 3 vols., London 1962, 1967, 1983, II, 463.

53 See The Journal to Stella, ed. Harold Williams, 2 vols., Oxford 1948, I, 138.

54 Ehrenpreis, II, 83.

55 Journal to Stella, II, 633.

56 See Walter E. Houghton, "The English Virtuoso in the Seventeenth Century", Journal of the History of Ideas 3 (1942), 51-73, 190-219, and Arno Löffler, Sir Thomas Browne als Virtuoso. Die Bedeutung der Gelehrsamkeit für sein literarisches Alterswerk, Nürnberg 1972, 16 ff.

57 Houghton, 57.

58 Edward N. Hooker, "Humour in the Age of Pope", Huntingdon Library Quarterly 11 (1947/48), 369 f., 376.

59 The essay will be quoted from The British Essayists, XI, 183-86.

60 British Essayists, XI, 183.

61 British Essayists, XI, 185.

62 See Waldemar Zacharasiewicz, Die Klimatheorie in der englischen Literatur und Literaturkritik. Von der Mitte des 16. bis zum frühen 18. Jahrhundert, Wien, Stuttgart 1977, 560.

63 British Essayists, XI, 185.

64 Critical Essays of the Seventeenth Century, ed. J.E. Spingarn, 3 vols., Oxford 1908/09, III, 246.

65 For Swift's similar conception of "humour", see also Löffler, "The Rebel Muse" - Studien zu Swifts kritischer Dichtung, Tübingen 1982, 133-42.

66 The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, ed. Herbert Davis et al., 16. vols., Oxford 1939-68, XII, 33.

67 Jonathan Swift, The Complete Poems, ed. Pat Rogers, New Haven and London 1983, 437.

68 For Stephen Duck and Mary Collier see Michael Paffard, "Stephen Duck, the Thresher Poet", History Today 27 (1977), 467-72; H. Gustav Klaus, "Stephen Duck und Mary Collier. Plebejische Kontro-Verse über Frauenarbeit vor 250 Jahren", Gulliver 10 (1981), 115-23; Linda Zionkowski, "Strategies of Containment: Stephen Duck, Ann Yearsley, and the Problem of Polite Culture", Eighteenth-Century Life 13 (1989), 91-108; Donna Landry, The Muses' Resistance: Laboring-Class Women's Poetry in Britain. 1739-1796, Cambridge Studies in 18th-Century Literature and Thought, Cambridge 1990.

69 British Essayists, XI, 183 f. - For another example of the commonplace view of the English character see also Sterne's Sentimental Journey (1768), where Yorick speaks about "that distinct variety and originality of character, which distinguishes them [the English], not only from each other, but from all the world besides" [Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy by Mr. Yorick, ed. Gardner D. Stout, Jr., Berkeley and Los Angeles 1967, 232].

70 British Essayists, XI, 186.