Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

The Reformation of Manners

Sat-Tues 26 February–1 March 1698 Last night a Proclamation was published, for suppressing Prophaneness and Immorality. (The Post Man)

3-5 March 1698   Taverns, coffee houses, and other publick houses are to be shut up on Sundays, and I am informed the Justices of Peace met yesterday at Hickshall, to consult about the most proper method to put in execution, his Majestys Proclamation to suppres Prophaneness and Immoralities. (The Post Man)

8-10 March 1698   Several of the late Proclamations for suppressing Prophanity and Immorality, are by the Officers of the Horse and Foot Guards, affixed in the Guard Rooms, for the better reclaiming of the soldiers. (The Post Man)

10-12 March 1698   The Dutch Officers here in town, have caused the late Proclamation against Prophaness and Immorality, to be translated into their own language, and affixed in their Guard Rooms, that their soldiers may be without excuse. (The Post Man)

12-14 May 1698

A short view of the Immoralitiy and the Profaneness of the English Stage: Together with the Sense of Antiquity upon this Argument. By Jer. Collier. M.A. The 2d Edition. Printed for S. Keble, at the Turks Head in Fleetstreet, R. Sare, at Gray's Inn Gate in Holbourn, and H. Hindmarsh against the Exchange in Cornhil. (The Post Man)

26-29 November 1698   London, November 29. Several Justices of Peace of the County of Middlesex and Liberty of Westminster, having notice of particular appointments for dancing and masquerades, and of printed tickets given out that none should be admitted without a mask, sent out warrants last week for suppressing such ulnlawful meetings. And having received an Order of Council, to provent and suppress all unlawful meetings, for masquerades and games, and other licentious doings, which give incouragement to immorality and prophaneness, in contempt of his Majestys late Proclamation, and the laws in such case: the Justices of the Peace, at a Petty Sessions in St Martins Vestry the 25th instant, have issued warrants, requiring all Petty Constables in their respective precincts, to prevent the like evil doings, and to cause such as shall presume to offend, to be prosecuted according to law. (The Post Man)

Sat-Tues 10-13 December 1698   Middle of last week a club of persons in masquerade were discovered and stopp'd in the Parish of St. Martins in the Fields by the Constable and the Watch, according to the Order of the Justices. The musick-houses in the City and Liberties of Westminster are also supprest. (The Flying Post)

22-24 December 1698   We hear, That Orders are issued for suppressing Revels in the City, and Liberties of Westminster, &c. during this Christmas. (The Flying Post)

29-31 December 1698   The Revels in the Temple, and elsewhere, as also the Gaming at the Groom-Portrers, have been laid aside this Chirstmas. (The Flying Post)

14-17 January 1699

Reasons for the passing of the Bill for the more effectual Suppressing Vice and Immorality, humbly offered to both Houses of Parliament. The second Edition, with Additions. Sold by William Hawes, at the Rose in Ludgate Street. (The Post Man)

28-30 March 1699   On Tuesday last the Right Reverend Father in God the Bishop of Litchfield and Coventry, preached the Quarterly Sermon at Bow-Church, to the Societies for Reformation of Manners. (The Flying Post)

15-18 April 1699   On Friday last one of the Spanish Ambassador's servants quarrelling with an officer in Spring-Gardens, ran him twice through the body; the officer died next day of his wounds, and the servant is look'd after.
     Yesterday the Quarter-Sessions for Middlesex, met in the Kings-Bench Court, Westminster-Hall, where Justice Carlow made a speech to the Juries, about Suppressing Profaneness and Immorality, according to His Majesty's Proclamation. (The Flying Post)

21-23 July 1701   The Folly upon the River of Thames being reputed notorious for lewdness and debauchery, last Monday night several Constables with 6 or 7 pair of oars came and surrounded the same, and entring, seized upon about 20 couple, and those who could give no good account of themselves were committed. [English Post]

17-19 February 1702   On Monday last came on the tryal against the play house near Lincolns Inn Fields at the Kings Bench Bar, upon an indictment before the Right Honourable the Lord Chief Justice Holt; the evidence against the players, for the most abominable, impious, prophane, lewd and immoral expressions, contained in the plays acted by them, appeared very full and plain, and the jury brought them in Guilty accordingly; which it is hoped will be much to the satisfaction of all true friends to religion and vertue, and deter for the future such as shall write plays, from using any lewd and immoral expressions. [Post Man] [This is repeated in other papers, but according to the Post Boy for 24-26 February, the jury found them Not Guilty.]

10-13 July 1703   The Presentment of the Grand Jury of the City of London, the 7th of July, 1703. at Justice Hall in the Old Baily, in the Second year of our Soveraign Lady Anne, Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, &c.
     It was with great satisfaction that we heard in the excellent charge, given us at Guild-Hall, of the visible decrease of vice and prophaness amongst us, to which we doubt not but the repeated Proclamations of our most Excellent Queen, and the care of this Honourable Court and the Magistrates of this City, in a due execution of the laws, hath greatly contributed.
     But as there is something yet wanting towards the carrying on a New Reformation of Manners, so we think it our duty humbly to propose the consideration of it to this Honourable Court, viz. The having some effectual course taken (if possible) to prevent the youth of this City from resorting to the play-houses, which we rather mention,

because the play-house bills are again posted up throughout the City, in contempt of a former presentment, and a positive order of the Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen to the contrary, as also because we are informed that a play-house within the Liberties of this City, which has been of late disused and neglected, is at this time refititng in order to be used as formerly.
     We do not presume to prescribe to this Honourable Court, but we cannot question, but that if they shall think fit, humbly to Address Her Majesty in this case, she will be graciously pleased to prevent it.
     We farther think our selves obliged humbly to propose, that some regulation of Bartholomew-Fair may be speedily thought on; Whereas we are informed that at least some hundred persons are generally revelling till late at night, as well Strangers as inhabitants of this City; at musick-houses, drolls, lotteries, &c. to the Dishonour of the City, the corrupting its youth and the encouragement of lewd and disorderly persons, quite contrary to the ancient design and first institution of the Fair. An instance of the great mischiefs that consequently attend such tumults, hath been this Sessions brought before this Honourable Court, in the proof of a barbarous murther of a Constable in the execution of his office, in a neighbouring Fair. [Post-Man] [See also the reports on the May Fair Riots.]

13-15 January 1719   The Societies for Reformation of Manners in the Cities of London and Westminster have prosecuted the following number of offenders, from the 1st of December 1717, to the 1st of December 1718.
Lewd and disorderly practices
Keeping of bawdy and disorderly houses
Exercising their trades or callings on the Lordís-Day
Prophane swearing and cursing
Keeping common gaming-houses


(White-hall Evening-Post)

2 January 1725   The Lord Bishop of Litchfield and Coventry is to preach a Sermon before the Societies for Reformation of Manners on Monday next, in the Morning, at Bow Church. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

28 May 1726   On Tuesday . . . a verdict for 20l. damages, was given against Mr. Jones, the High Constable of Holbourn Division [and a prominent member of the Society for the Reformation of Manners], for seizing a young Gentleman of worth and reputation in Westminster Abbey, and detaining him two days in the gatehouse, for no other Reason, than that the Gentleman advisíd him to take off his hat in the Abbey. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

Saturday, 10 March 1739   Monday was preach'd at Bow Church before the Societies for Reformation of Manners, a very good and useful Sermon on Mat. ix, the latter part of the 13th Verse, by the Rev. Mr. Smith, Rector of Alhallows on London-Wall. ... During Divine Service, a Dutch Jew was taken up at the door of the said Church, for exposing to sale little boxes with filthy obscene figures; he was carried by a Constable to Guildhall, and by Sir John Salter committed to Bridewell to hard labour as a common vagrant. (Read's Weekly Journal)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "The Reformation of Manners", 19 April 2002; updated 10 April 2007 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/vice.htm>

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