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

By Robert R. Bataille | Go to book overview

8
Politics after A Word to the Wise and the Staging of Clementina

Following the damnation of A Word to the Wise and its politicized publication by subscription on 17 May 1770, the Wilkite attacks on Kelly occurred more frequently than they had since his involvement of the Public Ledger in the contemporary political wars. Yet there were more significant political activities developing in the spring of 1770 than those fostered by, the controversy surrounding Kelly; there were events that once again served to link Kelly and the theater to the radical politics of the City. It will be remembered that in the two letters signed by Atticus published in March numbers of the Middlesex Journal, the writer abused not just Kelly but also David Garrick and Sir Robert Ladbroke: Garrick for forcing Kelly's plays onto a hostile audience and Ladbroke for being supportive of Kelly, "in the chair," as the Middlesex Journal put it, taking subscriptions for the publication of A Word to the Wise. The reference to Ladbroke as chairing a committee on Kelly's behalf seems phrased ironically to invoke the Wilkite SSBR (whose meetings, as reported in the press, always noted who was "in the chair" for a given meeting), so that Atticus might indignantly suggest how vast a difference existed between the noble cause of that Society and the ignoble one of Ladbroke and other Kelly supporters.

Ladbroke was scorned for his leadership of those aldermen opposed to Lord Mayor William Beckford's Remonstrance to the king, a litany of complaints presented on 14 March to King George III detailing the radical City's case against the king's ministers. The 13-15 March Middlesex Journal lists the anti-Patriot aldermen who refused to support Beckford: Ladbroke is among those names, as were John Kirkman, John Bird, and Thomas Harley, men who either subscribed to Kelly's play or were otherwise associated with Kelly. 1 Ladbroke, according to the Middlesex Journal for 13-15 March, made the actual motion against the Remonstrance; the paper accused Ladbroke of reading the motion but maintained that it had been written "at the other end of town:' meaning at the Court of St. James. The political heat must have been raised further when in the same

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