The Writing Life of Hugh Kelly: Politics, Journalism, and Theater in Late-Eighteenth-Century London

By Robert R. Bataille | Go to book overview

7
Friends, Enemies, and the Damnation of A Word to the Wise

After the riots that prevented A Word to the Wise from being staged, the attacks on Kelly did not cease immediately, and indeed the warning by Atticus that any future play of Kelly's would be damned affected the production of his plays for the remainder of his career. But the controversy surrounding A Word's damnation also produced positive results. As O'Leary points out:

However successful his enemies may have felt when the curtain closed on the debacle in the theater on March 6, his friends did not desert Kelly. To recoup his losses in the failure of his play and to give him a public testimony of their esteem, a subscription edition of A Word to the Wise was quickly proposed. Within a fortnight it was advertised in the London papers.(144)

The Wilkites ridiculed the subscription drive, as O'Leary notes (146), but failed to stop Kelly's friends from raising a large sum, estimated at about eight hundred pounds. The "List of Subscribers" and the "Dedication" prefacing the edition are of interest in themselves, for they reveal the range of Kelly's friends and political allies who paid the five shillings entitling them to one copy of the play.

The edition, which appeared in the middle of May, was dedicated to Sir Robert Ladbroke, whose importance to Kelly I have already briefly touched upon. A banker, Ladbroke represented the City Company of Grocers for the Bridge Without Ward. It was to Ladbroke's house on Knight-Rider Street, Doctor's Commons, that Kelly moved, probably sometime in late 1769. 1 A great deal of information about Sir Robert Ladbroke can be gleaned from the London newspapers of the time, and as he was the most important patron-friend of Kelly's--Garrick excepted--his own role during the Wilkite years is worth at-

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