John Gay’s Ballad Opera, Polly (1729)
Toward the end of the 1720s, the London stage was reclaimed by political dramatists in the face of government corruption and escalating rivalry between King George I (and his ‘prime minister’ Robert Walpole) and the future King George II . As well as parodying the pomposity of Italian Opera (by using English ballad tunes) John Gay’s Beggar's Opera (1728) sought to satarise Robert Walpole and his role in the South Sea Bubble fiasco. By exploring the corrupt ways of criminal underworld, Gay subversively implied parallels with actions of the Government. It was only after having attended and enjoyed the play that Robert Walpole learned that he himself was the target of the satire, after which he sought the play’s suppression. Due to this Polly, Gay’s follow-up (on display here) was banned before it was ever performed. Nevertheless, its subsequent publication by subscription in 1729, proved lucrative for its author.
Gay (John), Polly: An Opera. 4to. London, 1742.
Former owner: David Hughes (1727-77)