From The Lottery. This ballad opera was first performed in Drury Lane on New Year’s Day, 1732. Over the course of his theatrical career, Fielding composed twenty-five plays. One of his works, The Historical Register for the Year 1736, so strongly ridiculed Prime Minister Robert Walpole that it prompted passage of the Licensing Act of 1737, which ended Fielding’s writing for the stage. In the 1740s he published his best-known novels, Joseph Andrews and The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling.
Mr. Stocks: A lottery is a taxation
Upon all the fools in creation;
And heaven be praised,
It is easily raised,
Credulity’s always in fashion:
For folly’s a fund
Will never lose ground,
While fools are so rife in the nation.
[Knocking without. Enter First Buyer.]
First Buyer: Is not this a house where people buy lottery tickets?
Mr. Stocks: Yes, sir—I believe I can furnish you with as good tickets as anyone.
First Buyer: I suppose, sir, ’tis all one to you what number a man fixes on.
Mr. Stocks: Any of my numbers.
First Buyer: Because I would be glad to have it, sir, the number of my own years, or my wife’s; or if I could not have either of those, I would be glad to have it the number of my mother’s.
Mr. Stocks: Ay, or suppose, now, it was the number of your grandmother’s?
First Buyer: No, no! She has no luck in lotteries: she had a whole ticket once and got but fifty pounds by it.
Mr. Stocks: A very unfortunate person, truly. Sir, my clerk will furnish you, if you’ll walk that way up to the office. Ha, ha, ha! There’s ten thousand pounds got. What an abundance of imaginary rich men will one month reduce to their former poverty!
[Enter Second Buyer.]
Second Buyer: Does not your worship let horses, sir?
Mr. Stocks: Ay, friend.
Second Buyer: I have got a little money by driving a hackney coach, and I intend to ride it out in the lottery.
Mr. Stocks: You are in the right; it is the way to drive your own coach.
Second Buyer: I don’t know, sir, that—but I am willing to be in Fortune’s way, as the saying is.
Mr. Stocks: You are a wise man; and it is not impossible but you may be a rich one. ’Tis not above—no matter how many to one, but that you are this night worth ten thousand pounds.
Here are the best horses
That ever ran courses,
Here is the best pad for your wife, sir;
Who rides one a-day,
If luck’s in his way,
May ride in a coach all his life, sir.
The sportsman esteems
The horse more than gems,
That leaps o’er a pitiful gate, sir;
But here is the hack,
If you sit but his back,
Will leap you into an estate, sir.
Second Buyer: How long a man may labor to get that at work which he can get in a minute at play!
The soldier in a hard campaign,
Gets less than the gamester by throwing a main,
Or dealing to bubbles, and all, all that:
The stoutest sailor, everyone knows,
Get less than the courtier, with cringing bows,
And sir, I’m your vassal, and all, all that:
And town-bred ladies too, they say,
Get less by virtue than by play:
And dowdy Joan
Had never been known,
Nor coach had been her ladyship’s lot,
But for the black ace, and all, all that.
And belike you, sir, I would willingly ride upon the number of my coach.
Mr. Stocks: Mr. Trick, let that gentleman have the number of his coach—[aside] no matter whether we have it or no. As the gentleman is riding to a castle in the air, an airy horse is the properest to carry him.