Thomas Baker's Tunbridge-Walks, 1703


NOTE: The following extracts from Thomas Baker’s play Tunbridge-Walks: or, The Yeoman of Kent (1703), illustrate the transition from the fop of seventeenth-century drama to what appears to be a full-fledged molly, or effeminate homosexual. A major point of the play is to set up the opposing categories of masculinity and effeminacy, of which the major exemplars are respectively the heterosexual man and the molly. Mr Maiden, whom the women call ‘Miss Betty’, was once apprenticed to a milliner, where ‘a Gentleman took a fancy to me, and left me an Estate’. Maiden is not just a dandified fop, he is a transvestite: ‘I love mightily to go abroad in Women’s Clothes’. He has a circle of like-minded friends who meet in his chambers in the Temple and ‘play with Fans, and mimick the Women, Skream, hold up your Tails, make Cur[t]sies, and call one another, Madam’. Though these men acknowledge ‘We’re Women, meer Women i’ th’ end’, their mimicry has an object: ‘Ye Nymphs, have a care, / Be more Nice, and more Fair, / Or your Lovers in time we may gain.’ In sum, Maiden is neither fop nor eunuch: he is a molly.
        Thomas Baker matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1697 and graduated B.A. from Christ Church in 1700. His first play, The Humours of the Age, performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1701, ‘was written in two Months, and that when the Author was but barely of Age’ (David Erskine Baker, The Companion to the Play-House (1764), i. K1r). Tunbridge-Walks, his second play, was first performed on 27 January 1703 by Christopher Rich’s United Company at Drury Lane. It was revived in 1738 and 1764 (Drury Lane), 1748 (Covent Garden) and 1782 (Haymarket). Published editions appeared in 1703, 1714, 1725, 1726, 1736, 1751, 1758 and 1764. His third play, An Act at Oxford (1704), was banned by the University authorities, prompting a satire of Baker as ‘the Finnikin Yeoman of Kent . . . an Attorney turn’d Fool’ in The Tryal of Skill (1704). Rewritten with a new setting as Hampstead Heath, it was performed at Drury Lane on 30 October 1705. His next and last play, The Fine Ladies Airs; or, An Equipage of Lovers, was performed at Drury Lane on 14–17 December 1708 – the shortest run of any play during the 1708–9 season. It was ‘hiss’d off the Stage for its Scurrility’ (British Apollo, 26 Oct. 1709), but revived in 1747. The Prologue to The Fine Ladies Airs was written by Peter Motteux (1660–1718), the magazine editor and poet, and frequenter of courtesans, who died accidentally by erotic strangulation. Several actors including William Bullock were tried (and acquitted) in June 1701 for producing an obscene play, The Fox, possibly by Baker. Thomas Durfey in Modern Prophets, or New Wit for a Husband (1709) criticized Baker’s plays as plotless and said the audience had hissed them. Durfey accused Baker of ‘barbarous assassination attempts’ upon him.
          Baker was ‘the Son of an eminent Attorney in King-street, near Guildhall, in the City of London’, but ‘being under Disgrace with his Father, who allow’d him but a very scanty Income, [he] retired into Worcestershire, where it is said he died the Death of the great Sylla, the Roman Dictator, of that loathsome Distemper the Morbus Pediculosus’ (Thomas Whincop, Scanderbeg (1747), pp. 166–7). (According to Plutarch, Sylla’s bowels festered and his corrupt flesh swarmed with lice, which multiplied faster than they could be cleansed away.)
          David Erskine Baker suggested that in Tunbridge-Walks ‘the Character of Maiden, which is perhaps the Original of almost all the Fribbles, Beau Mizens, &c. that have been drawn since, and in which Effeminacy is carried to an Height, beyond what any one could conceive to exist in any Man in real Life, was absolutely, and without Exaggeration, a Portrait of the Author’s own former Character, whose Understanding having at length pointed out to him the Folly he had so long been guilty of, he reformed it altogether in his subsequent Behaviour, and wrote this Character, in order to set in forth in the most ridiculous Light, and warn others from that Rock of Contempt, which he had himself for some time been wrecked upon’ (i. Z1v). D. E. Baker hints that Thomas Baker’s ‘effeminate Turn of Disposition’ may have caused the bad relations between him and his father (i. A4v).
          It is virtually certain that Baker, using the pseudonym 'Phoebe Crackenthorpe', was the author of the early periodical The Female Tatler number 1 (8 July 1709) through number 51 (31 Oct.–2 Nov. 1709). Many passages in this periodical are quite camp. For instance, the description of Mrs Crackenthorpe’s effeminate manservant ‘Mr Francis’ – ‘Mrs Crackenthorpe desires people not to trouble their heads so much with her footman, Francis. One teases him, and t’other teases him, and the fellow don’t love to be teased. . . . t’other day several of my Lord Outside’s swearing equipage, got him to The Bear and Ragger Staff, where they called him Mr Francis, pulled the papers [i.e. curling papers] off his hair, and tore his fine shirt that cost three guineas. Francis is as tractable a servant as ever came into a house, and can turn his hand to anything: when the cook-maid’s sick, he’ll dress a joint of meat or make a pudding, scour down the stairs and mend the kitchen towels. . . . Or if his mistress goes to Tunbridge without a maid-servant, Francis pins up a gown beyond e’er a mantua-woman in Christendom.’ (No. 4, 13-15 July 1709). Surely 'Mr Francis' is none other than the character of 'Francis Maiden' from Tunbridge-Walks. Mr Francis is repeatedly beaten up by rough boys as he goes to visit his Aunt Dobson (e.g. No. 10, 27–29 July 1709), and perhaps this is a description of Thomas Baker himself as an effeminate youth.
          One issue of the paper describes some female cross-dressers, hinting that they are lesbians: ‘An express from Peckham gives an account that Mrs Margaret and Mrs Millicent Trott are grown so very ridiculous not a neighbour will receive a visit from them. They affect every thing that’s masculine, their shifts are called shirts, their headclothes are their perriwigs, their wrapper is their double-button’d coat, and their furbelow-scarves their roquelaures [flounced scarves; knee-length cloaks]. They are very intimate with Obadiah Subpoena [note the legal pun; Baker was son or an attorney], are frequently dress’d in man’s clothes, and gallop with ’em to the Palatines, . . . they have seduc’d Miss Lack-it from the boarding-school, who steals out when her mistress is a-bed, to ramble with ’em.’ (No. 8, 22–25 July 1709)
          Baker was beaten up by thugs after ‘Mrs Crackenthorpe’ satirized a police constable in October, and on 15 October the Middlesex Grand Jury declared the paper to be ‘a great nuisance’. In number 51, ‘Mrs Crackenthorpe’, ‘resenting the affront, offered to her by some rude citizens’ gives notice that she has resigned the paper to ‘a society of modest ladies’. These would include Bernard Mandeville and others never identified (M. M. Goldsmith, By a Society of Ladies (Bristol, 1999)). Baker is clearly revealed to be Mrs Crackenthorpe in a series of poems and letters that appeared in nearly every issue of the British Apollo from 31 August through 26 October 1709: ‘this wise Undertaker / By Trade’s an At—ney, by Name is a B—r, / Who rambles about with a Female Disguise on’ (14 Sept.); ‘the Title of Monsieur Crackfart had been better than Mrs. Crackenthorpe, because, tho’ whilst the Town believ’d the Author was a Woman, they might in Civility to the Sex bear with it, yet, when they come to discover It, a Coarse He Thing in Petticoats, awkwardly Personating them in their retir’d Affairs, it wou’d be as Contemptibly hiss’d out of the World, as his Devil of a Play was last Season, hiss’d off the Stage’ (letter, British Apollo, 5 October 1709). The paper suggests that Baker was actually blinded in the attack upon him; in any case, he was effectively run out of town and his reputation was destroyed. Baker was not heard of after 1709.
          Fidelis Morgan in her edition of The Female Tatler published by Everyman's Library in 1992 attributed authorship of the periodical to Mrs Delarivier Manley. Janet Todd in British Woman Writers said this was highly unlikely, and Fidelis Morgan has offered no substantial support for this attribution (which was first made in 1930, and dismissed in a Ph.D. thesis in 1966). Morgan makes a safe compromise, suggesting that the paper was written jointly by Delarivier Manley and Thomas Baker, but then goes on and makes statements about "Mrs Manley's paper" (i.e. abandoning Baker by the wayside). On the contrary, the external evidence clearly points to Thomas Baker, and I think that that there are some striking parallels between certain issues of the paper and Baker's plays (and the fact that Baker is supposed to have been highly effeminate in real life, even female-identified). It seems to me fairly clear that Baker wrote at least the first 17 issues, until August 1709 when it split and went to a new publisher, and that he may also have written most of the following issues until No. 51 when his persona "Mrs Phoebe Crackenthorpe" left it to a Society of Ladies, after which time we know that, for instance, Mandeville contributed under a female pseudonym, and Susana Centilivre may have contributed essays. The paper ceased publication in March 1710. The only reason for the highly speculative and unlikely attribution to Delariviere Manley was the fact that 'Mrs Crackenthorpe' resigned 'her' editorship of the paper in October 1709, which coincided with Delarivier Manley's arrest and imprisonment for publishing The New Atalantis. But sufficient cause for 'Mrs Crackenthorpe's' departure was the fact that Baker was beaten up by thugs in October after criticism of a deputy constable appeared in an issue of The Female Tatler, and, further, on 15 October the Middlesex Grand Jury declared the paper to be ‘a great nuisance’. Baker's virtually certain authorship has not been more forcefully argued, perhaps because there has been too strong a desire to claim the paper for feminist literary history. Nearly all websites that mention the paper have picked up and repeated the extraordinarily weak attribution to Delarivier Manley (as Fidelis Morgan's Everyman edition is the only one available). This means that The Female Tatler is being consistently misread as an early 'women's magazine' and an important contribution to early feminism. But it was something quite other: most of the subjects of gossip, ‘Lady Betty Modish’, ‘Aunt Dobson’, ‘Rebecca Rhenish’, 'Sue Stately', 'Jenny Jigg-it', 'Bess Bob-tail', 'Kate Wriggle', 'Lady Scribble', 'Mrs Mince-it' and so forth may be men satirized under female nicknames, part of the 'Maiden Name' tradition in the molly houses of the gay subculture. The Female Tatler, far from being the first ‘women’s magazine’, should perhaps be read as an elaborate exercise in camp humour written by a man in drag.


Tunbridge-Walks.

OR, THE

Yeoman of Kent.

Act I, Scene 1

* * *

Enter Maiden.

          Mr. Maiden. Are you for the Walks, Gentlemen?
          Reynard. Ay, But Mr. Maiden, You are very late to Day, the Ladies will be all there before you.
          Maiden. Why really, Sir, I us'd to be dress'd sooner; but I have been mightily out of Order this Morning with the Vapours, and the Chollick, and was forc'd to stay to Eat a little Chicken Broth — Pray, Gentleman, What new Company have we here? They way, There's a world of Wuality come down this Week.
          Woodcock. Quality! What then! They'll neither furnish the Wells with more Wit, nor more Money.
          Maiden. But the Ladies, Sir, always respect People of Rank — They say, Mr. Woodcock, You have a fine Dauighter to dispose of here; I design to make her some Overtures.
          Woodcock. You — Thou Effeminate Coxcomb, Dost think she'll like one of her own Sex — [Aside.] D'slife
[i.e. the exclamation 'God's life'], all the Fops in this Place have got a Notion of my Daughter; I shall have 'em Bait her, as a parcel of Hounds do a young Leveret [a young hare]. I'll go find her out, make her pack up her Auls, and we'll be gone to morrow Morning. [Exit.]
          Loveworth. Prithee, Frank, Let's to the Coffee-House, and leave these Fools together.
          Reynard. I'll step but to my Chamber, and follow you instantly. [Exeunt differently.]
          Captain Squib. Well, Friend, And what Accomplishments d'you pretend to, with the Ladies?
          Maiden. Why, I can Sing, and Dance, and play upon the Guittar; make Wax-work, and Fillagree, and Paint upon Glass. Besides, I can dress a Lady up a Head upon Occasion, for I was put Prentice to a Millener once, only a Gentleman took a fancy to me, and left me an Estate; but that's no Novelty, for abundance of People now-a-days, take a fancy to a handsome young Fellow. [p.7]
          Squib. And wou'd Sooth the Women with these Fooleries? they hate a Nice Fop, that's so much an Image of themselves; and love a robust Masculine Fellow, that will kiss 'em, tumble 'em, and towze em' about.
          Maiden. [Aside.] Poor silly Creature; Lard; Does he think fine Ladies will suffer themselves to be us'd like Oyster Women — Sir, I hope, I hay'n't study'd the Ladies so long, not to know how to Address 'em; neither have I take so much pains to polish my self to be rejected for you: Therefore you may give your self what rough Airs you please, and yet not succeed half so well as those that have a little more Modesty.
          Squib. Modesty — Here's a Fellow now — Prithee, What does Modesty signifie? Did it ever get a Lover a Maidenhead, a Lawyer a Cause, or a Courtier a Place — But to pretend to Modesty in this Age; Why the Women have laid it aside now, and are resolv'd, A-la-mode en France, to appear bare-neck'd, gallop without Stays, drink their Bottle, keep Fellows, and be out of Countenance at nothing; — Thank Heav'n, Modesty's an Infamy my Family can ne're be branded with; for all my Relations from the beginning, have been either Pimps, Poets, Attornies, Projectors, Stock-Jobbers, or Custom-House Officers — But you may e'en quit your Modesty, your Airs, and your Graces; for I resolve to ingross all the Ladies to my self; and if you dare meddle with one —
          Maiden. D' you think I won't talk to 'em, and give 'em Sweet-Meats?
          Squib. That I grant you; But if you offer Love to any thing that's under Fifty, agove the degree of a Chamber-Maid, and has a Nose on her Face,
[i.e. doesn't have syphilis] I'le cut your Throat — [Aside.] I may Hector this Fellow without danger.
          Maiden. As to that matter, Captain, we shall never quarrel; For if I can Raffle with the Ladies, Dance with them, and Walk with 'em in publick, I never desire any private Love-favours from 'em.
          Squib. Nay, Then gi' me thy Hand, thus we agree the Point, and will assist each other. I'll recommend you for a Partner [p.8] in Dancing; you shall commend me for a Lover to wait on 'em home.
          Maiden. With all my Heart.
          Squib. Come along, Frigid. [Exit.]
          Maiden. Lard, What rude Monster is this? Sure something that come out of the Bear-Garden! But I'me glad we are Friends; for if he had drawn his Sword, I shou'd ha' swounded away. [Exit.] [p.9]

* * *

Act II, Scene: The Walks
[Tunbridge was famous for its arcaded walkways in front of the shops (today called ‘The Pantiles’)]

* * *

          Mrs. Goodfellow. Mr. Maiden is the most useful Person in such a publick Place, and distinguishes himself so obligingly to promoting ev're Diversion.
          Maiden. Oh, Madam, I am Master of the Ceremonies here; appoint all the Dancing, Summon the Ladies, and Manage the Musick; tho' really, these Fidlers are such a parcel of idle, scoundrel Fellows, one has more trouble in keeping 'em together, than Mr. Rich has in governing the Drury-lane Players.
          Mrs. Hillaria. But Pray, Mr. Maiden, How d'you employ your self for want of an Office in London?
          Maiden. Why, Madam, I never keep Company with lewd Rakes that go to the nasty Taverns, talk Smuttily, and get Fuddl'd, but Visit the Ladies, and Drink Tea, and Chocolate; They think me the best Creature; for they Consult me mightily about their Dress; I tell 'em when the Sleeve's rowl'd too high, and the Gown Pinn'd too flat;; fancy their Knots, and help 'em make their Patchwork; and they call me Mrs. Betty — Then, I have Chambers at the Temple, and keep a Levee, and a Visiting-Day; for since the Lawyers are all turn'd Poets, and have taken the Garrets in Drury-lane, none but Beaus live at the Temple now, who have Sold all their Books, Burnt all their Writings, and furnish'd the Rooms with Lookinglass and China.
          Loveworth. But if you neither Read, Study, nor Converse with Men, How d' you bemploy your superfluous hours?
          Maiden. Why, Sir, I can Pickle and Preserve, raise Paste, and make all my own Linnen; Then I love mightily to go abroad in Women's Clothes: I was dress'd up last Winter in my Lady Fussock's Cherry-colour Damask, sat a whole Play in the Front-Seat of the Box, and was taken for a Dutch Woman of Quality. [p.21]

* * *

ACT III. SCENE I.

* * *

          Loveworth. They say, Mr. Maiden, You are in the Lampoon that came out this Morning, for having an Affair with Mrs. Motion your Landlady's Chambermaid.
          Maiden. That's an Impudent Report, Mr. Loveworth, only to Spoil one's Reputation among the Ladies, for 'tis well [p.29] known I have more Modesty, and never lay with a Woman in my life.
          Squib. And will your Virtue gain you any Credit with the Ladies, you silly Toad; If you wou'd Settle an Interest there, you msut Swear you ha' worry'd half the Sex; but thou hast'nt Wit enough to subdue any thing above a Sempstress.
          Maiden. Lard! What signifies Wit? How particular a Wit wou'd look at Court now-a-days; Your poor scoundrel Wits are forc'd to Cringe to us Men of Figure — I'me to have a Dedication next Winter: Well, a Dedication is the prettiest thing — To see one's own Name in the Front of a Book — To the Honourable Francis Maiden Esq; — Then to have the World told of one's Airs, and Equipage, and the Valour of one's Ancestors — You may talk what you will of your Wit and Sense, but you'd part with all your Qualifications to have my Complexion.
          Squib. O Lord, Complexion! Who the Devil minds that? And hast thou the Assurance to despise Men of Wit, and value thy self upon thy white Gloves, thy Honey-Wate rBottle, and thy painted Face?
          Maiden. Well, Where it not for a little Art, one shou'd look like other people, But what then, 'tis only a Wash from the Dove in Salisbury-Bury Court, which all the Quality use, and tho' I say it, when my Face is set out to the best Advantage, it has given many a Lady a Palpitation at the Heart — But you know, Captain, We have agreed not to quarrel: I hate testy Follks, when I was at School, I cou'd never abide the Boys; they were always Rangling, and Fighting, but I lov'd mightily to play with the Girls, and dress Babies, and all my Acquaintance now never quarrel'd in their lives.
          Loveworth. No, what sort of people are they good now?
          Maiden. Oh! The best Creatures in the World; we have such Diversion, when we meet together at my Chambers, There's Beau Simper, Beau Rabbitsface, Beau Eithersex, Colonel Coachpole, and Count Drivel, that sits with his mouth open
[Count Drivel may be modelled on Algernon Capel, 2nd Earl of Essex (1670–1710), holder of many public offices, who is thus lampooned in other satires] the prettiest Company at a Bowl of Virgin-Punch; [p.30] we never make it with Rum nor Brandy — like your Sea Captains, but two Quarts of Mead to half a pint of White Wine, Lemon-Juice, Burridge, and a little Perfume; Then we never read Gazets, nor talk of Venlo and Vigo [a topical reference to important sea battles in 1702 at which the British were victorious during the early stages of the War of the Spanish Succession: the siege of Venlo on the Meuse and the battle of Vigo harbour in Spain], like your Coffee-House Fellows; but play with Fans, and mimick the Women, Skream, hold up your Tails, make Cursies, and call one another, Madam — But Mr. Loveworth, Are you for the Dancing at Southborrough to Night? I'me going to be all new dress'd.
          Loveworth. Ay, But we are too Soon yet; lets take a Flask first at the Rummer.
          Maiden. O Lard I never go to the Tavern.
          Squib. But faith you shall, Mr. Loveworth, lets force him along.
          Maiden. O Lard I shall be Ravish'd; Captain you are the rudest Man, as I hope to be Sav'd I'le call out: Well, don't tumble a body then, and I will go, but I never drink any thing but Rhenish and Sugar.
          Squib. Dam Rotgut Rhenish, we'll have Mrs. Motion's health in a Bumper of Barcelona.
          Maiden. Oh! She's a Bold Pullet. [Exeunt.] [p.49]

* * *


SOURCE: Thomas Baker, Tunbridge-Walks, or, The Yeoman of Kent; a Comedy. As it is acted at the Theatre Royal by Her Majesty's Servants. London: Printed for Bernard Lintott, at the Middle Temple-Gate, Fleetstreet, 1703.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Thomas Baker's Tunbridge Walks, 1703", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 6 June 2012 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/baker1.htm>.


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