site logo

Origin Of The Beggar's Opera

It was Swift that first suggested to Gay the idea of the Beggar's

Opera, by remarking, what an odd, pretty sort of a thing a Newgate

pastoral might make! "Gay," says Pope, "was inclined to try at such a

thing for some time; but afterwards thought it would be better to write

a comedy on the same plan. This was what gave rise to the Beggar's

Opera. He began on it; and when he first mentioned it to Swift, the

doctor did n
t much like the project. As he carried it on, he showed

what he wrote to both of us; and we now and then gave a correction, or a

word or two of advice, but it was wholly of his own writing. When it was

done, neither of us thought it would succeed. We showed it to Congreve,

who, after reading it over, said, 'It would either take greatly, or be

damned confoundedly.' We were all, at the first sight of it, in great

uncertainty of the event, till we were very much encouraged by hearing

the Duke of Argyle, who sat in the next box to us, say, 'It will do--I

see it in the eyes of them.' This was a good while before the first act

was over, and so gave us ease soon; for the Duke (besides his own good

taste) has as particular a knack as any one now living, in discovering

the taste of the public. He was quite right in this, as usual; the good

nature of the audience appeared stronger and stronger every act, and

ended in a clamour of applause."

* * * * *