Controlling Georgian Pleasures: Music and Entertainment, Legislation and the Law

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstractpeer-review


Hogarth’s The Enraged Musician may be the most famous of comments on Georgian street music, but behind the humour of the image lays the fact that little-by-little, Britain’s town and city authorities were setting out an ever-increasing raft of legislation that sought to restrict and control the public’s musical and theatrical pleasures. In the capital, London’s authorities introduced the 1737 Theatrical Licensing Act; amendments appeared in 1752 and again in 1780; further afield, Bristol’s Corporation of the Poor attempted to ban street singers in 1782 and again in 1789, Birmingham followed suit in 1794, and in 1811 the authorities in Amersham placed a notice in the streets which exhorted ‘Constables and other Peace Officers to apprehend all Common Beggars Ballad Singers and other Vagrants so that they may be dealt with according to Law.’

‘Controlling Georgian pleasures’ will examine who it was trying to control the theatrical stage and silence the street singer. It will ask why the measures were considered necessary: was it what was being performed that caused concern, how it was performed, or the performers themselves? Or was it where the performances took place and the audience? Many of the answers might point towards later, Victorian themes of decency, manners and social segregation, but others will suggest that the threat of revolution, disguised as an attempt to control crime and disorder, were just as frequently behind what became a substantial body of legislative control of Georgian entertainment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013
EventGeorgian Pleasures - Bath, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Sep 201313 Sep 2013


ConferenceGeorgian Pleasures
CountryUnited Kingdom


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