Two Spectators: The Double Vision of Ned Ward’s The London Spy
Ned Ward’s monthly The London Spy (1698–1700) maps the life and character of London and exposes “the Vanities and Vices of the Town” (2). Written after the lapse of the Licensing Act in 1694, the work also exemplifies new freedoms of the press that flourished when pre-publication censorship was no longer enforced: The London Spy is unabashedly scandalous, and frequently critical of public institutions and the state. Ward profited from the public’s interest in his always irreverent, frequently indecorous and salacious tales. However, he aims to be critical and insightful as well as superficial and shallow in The London Spy; by capitalizing on the differences between his two characters, the Spy and his Friend, Ward vilifies “Vice and Villany,” with one hand while satisfying a voyeuristic appetite for the prurient and scatological with the other. This study examines how the two perspectives of The London Spy, the Spy and his Friend, work together within a highly fragmented and contradictory framework in order to show how Ward attempts to please both the unrefined reader looking for salacious material and, occasionally, the more discerning reader who understands the underlying problems and appreciates satire. Ward uses two differences between the Spy and his Friend to negotiate the balance between these two perspectives. First, The Spy is a naive and ignorant spectator and tourist, while the Friend is a cynical and experienced guide. The second difference is that the Spy is curious and at times compassionate where the Friend is diagnostic in his approach and unaffected on a personal level by the troubles of other people. The Spy and his Friend also distance themselves from the crowds and spectators they encounter, acting as observers or “spies.” The two perspectives of The London Spy are central to Ward’s negotiation between voyeuristic and knowing audiences.
Ned Ward, The London Spy, Perspective, Audience
Master of Arts (M.A.)