1) St. Giles: a "fashionable" (in satire) section of London. (Bear)

St. Giles was a poverty-stricken area. It was home, for one, to gin distilleries, pawn shops, and the attendant miseries thereof. It is considered by many to be the source location for Gin Alley, a (Type of picture) by Hogarth. It is represented on Greenwood's Map(Insert Link to Map)

2) Catches: songs. The term here refers to poems, especially those which might be turned into ballads sung to popular tunes. Technically, a catch is a kind of round for three voices. (Bear)

3) Recitative: a stylized spoken passage in an opera or oratorio. There is a recitative in The Beggar's Opera, but it is a mock-recitative, so the Beggar's assertion is honest so far as it goes. (Bear)

4) plead her Belly: By law a pregnant woman could not be executed. (Bear)

5) Book him: arrange for "transportation" as an alternative to hanging. (Bear)

6) Transportation: placed on a ship bound for the West Indies or the colonies in North America (later also Australia) for "service," generally to a plantation owner for a set term of years. (Bear)

7) Lock: warehouse for stolen goods. Peachum's principal trade is in "fencing" (selling stolen goods) through merchants such as Mrs. Trapes. (Bear)

8) Education: as a pickpocket. Thieves were trained by an apprenticeship system that resembled that in use in legitimate trades. (Bear)

9) Newgate: the principal jail of London. There were some 150 jails in the city. (Bear)

10) Sessions: English justices of peace sat for a specified term to hear cases. If a case did not come before the justices, the prisoner was held over until the next sessions. Peachum, who is based on the notorious Jonathan Wild, is using the court system to clean out the less efficient members of his gang by the expedient of handing them over for a reward, to be hanged. Wild had a gang of some 1500 thieves, and was the undisputed master of the London underworld in the early 1720's. (Bear)

11) Periwig: the powdered wig worn by Gentlemen. Macheath, Peachum, and Lockit would also wear these; while not Gentlemen, their high position in the underworld would procure them the marks of a higher class, the better to gain access to courtiers and bureaucrats who found these men useful. (Bear)

12) Cart: criminals went to their executions in an open cart so that the populace could see them. (Bear)

13) Robin...Booty: these are names for Sir Robert Walpole, prime minister, whose corrupt administration is the target of much of the serious satire in The Beggar's Opera. Because of this, the even more pointed sequel, Polly Peachum, was denied performance on the stage, though it was published and sold well. (Bear)

(Insert Link to Polly)

14) Camp: military service, particularly as an officer. (Bear)

15) Venus's Girdle...smugly: a young woman who becomes a votary of Venus will soon take on the complexion of some of Venus' flowers, and show signs of self-satisfaction. (Bear)

16) Adonis: A youth with whom Venus (Aphrodite) fell in love. (Bear)

17) Bank-Notes: the equivalent of cashier's checks. Required a proper signature to cash in, and were difficult to dispose of safely. (Bear)

18) Bagshot: Bagshot Heath was the scene of numerous robberies. (Bear)

19) Quadrille: a card game for four hands; the object is to discard the 8's, 9's and 10's. Very popular in the 1720's through the '30's, particularly among the ladies. (Bear)

20) Mary-bone: a noted high-stakes gambling center, popular with fashionable gentlemen. (Bear)

21) Chocolate-Houses: a high-fashion drink, chocolate, which was something like the hot cocoa of today, was served in a kind of tavern supposedly specializing in the drink. However, much stronger drink was available, and high-stakes gambling was rife in these establishments, as at Marybone. (Bear)

22) Temple: section of London containing the Inns of Court, where young lawyers received their training. A good location for a "coffee-house" which, like the chocolate-houses, offered a variety of beverages. (Bear)

23) Cambric: fine linen. The handkerchiefs of the gentry were often embroidered with their identifying symbols and initials. (Bear)

24) Chap: short for "chapman," a purchaser. (Bear)

25) Guineas: gold coin worth 21 shillings. (Bear)

a) Current: Circulating, said of coinage or other currency. (OED)

26) Redriff: suburb of the Port of London, where many sailors lived.(Bear)

27) Fob: very small pocket, difficult to pick. Usually a watch-pocket. (Bear)

28) Pumpt: doused in public under a stream of water from the pump; a common punishment for juvenile offenders. (Bear)

29) Hockley-in-the-Hole: a popular resort of thugs and prostitutes. Bear-baiting and cock-fights took place there. (Bear)

30) Old Baily: criminal court, since generally spelled Old Bailey. Jonathan Wild kept an office near the court, to facilitate his business in turning in thieves and collecting rewards for the return of stolen goods. (Bear)

31) Ordinary's Papers: the prison chaplain's record of confessions. Mrs. Peachum can imagine no other end to Filch's career than Newgate prison. (Bear)

32) Covent-Garden: large flower market in London. Some of the "flowers" were prostitutes. (Bear)

33) Repeating-Watch: an especially expensive type of watch that chimed the hour. (Bear)

34 Drury-Lane: London street noted for prostitution.(Bear)

b) beetle-browed: "Having prominent brows," Johnson; "having black and long eyebrows," Bailey (1782); with earlier "authorities Having shaggy, bushy, or prominent eye-brows"; see esp. quots. 1400, 1591. Dr. Johnson's explanation probably owes something to the sense attached to BEETLE v.1 Almost always reproachful, and sometimes in 17th c. simply "lowering, scowling, sullen, surly. Cf. supercilious f. L. supercilium "eyebrow. (OED)

35) Tunbridge: a town to the north of London.(Bear)

36) Fullers-Earth: a "soap," very abrasive and effective, made from the microscopic skeletons of diatoms, a kind of plankton. (Bear)

37) Plate: tableware, sometimes silver but most often of pewter. A very common object of theft, as it was easily melted down if too recognizable. (Bear)

38) ...is but picking: mere picking of pockets or shop-lifting. (Bear)

39) Jointure: a transfer of funds or property from husband to wife, effective upon his death, for her maintenance as a widow. (Bear)

40) Peach'd: indicted, sworn out a warrant against. One could be impeached on the testimony of one witness, but convicted only on that of two or more. (Bear)

41) Play-Books: an in-joke, as many of the patrons present will have bought a copy of the "Opera," or if they have not, are thus wryly encouraged to do so. Many plays were romances and the books were regarded by parents as a "bad influence." (Bear)

42) Strategem: strategy; here the Captain's skill in conducting robberies upon the Road. (Bear)

43) Holborn: the slums between Newgate and Tyburn (the place of execution). (Bear)

aa) tree: the gallows. See tyburn tree.

44) Jack Ketch: a generic nick-name for hangmen. The original Jack Ketch plied his trade in the previous century. (Bear)

45) Miss Fire: flintlock pistols depended upon a spark from the flint to strike the powder in the "pan," which then ignited the compressed powder in the barrel through a small "touch hole." The spark often went in some other direction than the pan, so that the pistol failed to shoot. This was very aptly called a miss Fire, and the term has survived as "misfire." (Bear)

46) Slip her Shoulder: a highwayman's horse was expected to carry him away safely at night upon uneven ground. If it stepped in a hole, a dislocated limb could result in his hanging. (Bear)

47) Fleaing: "flaying," as in skinning or fleecing. Also: bloodsucking. (Bear)

48) Ottamys at Surgeons Hall: corruption of "anatomies." Tom has been dissected in a lecture on anatomy and is now a skeleton, i.e., dead. (Bear)

49) Worth speaking with: euphemism for "profitable robbery victim." (Bear)

50) Bawd: a madam, or sometimes, a pimp. One whose business is to sell prostitutes. (Bear)

51) Moor-fields: a district in north London, convenient for operations upon the Road. (Bear)

52) March in Rinaldo: a march from a popular G.F. Handel opera, Rinaldo. (Bear)

53) Chymist: alchemist. The highwaymen hope to turn their lead bullets into gold coins by a form of transmutation called "armed robbery." (Bear)

54) Drawer: person, generally male, whose work is to tap the barrels in the cellar and bring wine or beer up to the customers in a tavern. (Bear)

55) Vinegar Yard: courtyard noted for prostitution. (Bear)

56) Lewkers Lane: London street noted for prostitution. Jonathan Wild had operated a brothel there. (Bear)

57) Strong-Waters: Geneva, a strong distilled drink, which became known as "ginn," or gin. Not considered a proper drink for ladies, and therefore much in demand by them. (Bear)

58) Talleymen: merchants who offered terms (at very high percentage rates--like modern credit card companies). (Bear)

59) If Musick be the Food of Love, play on: Twelfth Night 1.1. (Bear)

60) Mercers: merchants of dry goods, especially textiles. (Bear)

61) Padesoy: a very costly material. (Bear)

62) Keeping: a mistress, or "kept woman," was said to be "in Keeping." It was important for mistresses to dress well; their function was as much for escort as for sexual services. (Bear)

63) Bating: excepting. It was traditional, when saying anything complimentary of Jews, to append a disclaimer as to their illegal faith. (Bear)

64) Plantations: sugar farms in the West Indies, and tobacco farms in Virginia, Maryland, and Carolina, of very extensive acreage, requiring vast numbers of laborers, many of whom were criminals sentenced to transportation. (Bear, paraphrased)

65) Souse: sou, a French coin. (Bear)

66) Constables: men of the parish designated for the keeping of the peace. One citizen could engage the services of the constables in effecting an arrest, but if he could not provide sufficient witnesses or evidence in court, and the case was thrown out, the citizen was accountable for court costs and the constables' fees.(Bear)

67) Was this well done: Antony and Cleopatra 5.2. (Bear)

68) Turnkey: combination guard and janitor. Turnkeys carried the keys of the prison and opened and closed doors for prisoners, jailors, ordinaries, visitors, laundry-women, and all others who had business in the prison. In most cases, though not always, they also brought food, bedding, and the like to the cells and wards. (Bear)

69) Garnish: Lockit has obtained his position by submitting the high bid for a Government contract. The return on his investment is obtained by extracting fees from his prisoners for "liquor, food, walking space, lighter chains, and bedding. A final outrageous feature of this system forced prisoners acquitted of crimes to pay a discharge fee" (Guerinot & Jilg 38). (Bear)

70) Fetters: fetlocks, or leg- irons. By this time also sometimes used to refer to hand-cuffs. (Bear)

71) Basilisk: a reptile of legend whose look or breath could kill. (Bear)

72) Treacle: formerly a compound for treatment of poisonous bites; by this time, referring only a thick molasses. (Bear)

73) ...load of Infamy: Lucy is about five months pregnant. (Bear)

74) Bowels: the seat of kindness, pity, forgiveness; generally in plural, as here. (Bear)

75) Arrear of the Government: although Lockit has paid for his contract to run the concession of Newgate, some fees, such as the rewards for criminals caught and executed, were owed by the government to him (and his partner). The state bureaucracy was notoriously slow in payment. (Bear)

76) Condemn'd Hold: the Stone Hold. A prisoner entering Newgate who could not pay his fees was kept here. There was neither heat nor light, and excrement was seldom if ever removed. (Bear)

77) Sirrah: an expression of contempt. (Bear)

78) ...expect the Gentleman: Jonathan Wild actually advertised in the papers his business in locating and returning stolen goods for a reward, no questions asked. When asked about a snuff-box, "nimm'd" (stolen) on a given night in a given locality, he had but to look in his account-books to see if the item in question was in one of his warehouses. (Bear)

79) Weeds: black clothing, signifying mourning. Often taken as a sign that a woman had come into her jointure and would be a fine catch. (Bear)

80) Perquisite: incidental income unrelated to salary. In this case, a euphemism for "bribe." (Bear)

81) Bubbled: a financial scheme that fell through was a "bubble": the "South Seas Bubble" was a famous instance, which took place in 1720. A bubble is hence anyone easily cheated or hoodwinked. (Bear)


c) Fetch: 2. A contrivance, dodge, stratagem, trick; also, a fetch of law, policy, state, and to cast a fetch. (OED)


d) trepan: 1. A surgical instrument in the form of a crown-saw, for cutting out small pieces of bone, esp. from the skull.
Trepan can, and in this case is, used as a verb, to indicate penetration in the manner of or by a trepan.

82) Pack: foxhounds, but also, in Macheath's case, bloodhounds. (Bear)

83) Herds, Droves, or Flocks: Gay is mistaken here; these are all social animals. That information would not have been available to him at the time; most of what was known in England of lions, for example, was true of the Asian lion of the Near East, which was more solitary in its habits than the now much more common African lion. (Bear)

84) Pikes: A powerful, toothed fish, of gaunt build ("lank"), found in streams, lakes and moats, noted for its cannibalism. (Bear)

85) Quartern: one-fourth of a pint. (Bear)

86) Shotten Herring: when a herring has spawned it has a used-up appearance. (Bear)

87) ...helping the Ladies to a Pregnancy: if a woman was about to go on trial for her life it was to her advantage to be pregnant, for she could not be hanged until the child was born and provided for, by which time another Sessions might have passed. (Bear)

88) Great Man: Macheath. This was also a common (sarcastic) expression for referring to Sir Robert Walpole. (Bear)

89) Setting: euphemism for watching a traveler for a convenient opportunity to rob him. The term actually means to spy on a criminal for an opportunity to safely arrest him. Jenny Diver and Sukey Tawdrey, in effecting Macheath's capture earlier, act as "setters" in the usual sense. The Irish Setter got its name from this practice, for it "points" game much as a criminal is "finger'd" or "peach'd". (Bear)

90) Rouleau: coins, particularly of gold, that have been sorted, counted, and rolled. (Bear)

91) Coronation Account: list of items stolen from the large numbers who had attended festivities celebrating a coronation (probably that of George II, who acceded to the throne in 1727). Such occasions were so lucrative that Jonathan Wild sometimes established a temporary field office in the vicinity, the better to direct his gangs. (Bear)

92) Lady's Tail: train, or a piece of rich cloth designed to drag along behind the lady as she walks. Associated with state occasions such as a coronation. (Bear)

93) Gudgeons: a species of fish very easily caught. (Bear)

94) Mrs. Dye: a generic nick-name for a dealer in stolen cloth. Some items were dyed to disguise their origins. (Bear)

95) Mantoes: manteaus. A loose cloak or robe. (Bear)

96) The Act for destroying the Mint: The Mint was an area in Southwark where a debtor or thief could find sanctuary (cf. DeFoe's Moll Flanders). The legal status of the area had been repealed in 1697, but the custom prevailed. The Act referred to here was enacted in 1724 in a more determined effort to clean up the area. (Bear)

97) Act...against Imprisonment for small Sums: the Bankruptcy Laws had allowed for imprisonment of all debtors and confiscation of their goods. So many people had fled the country in order to avoid imprisonment for relatively small debts that liberalization was undertaken to stem the flow and allow debtors more leeway in finding income to cover these debts. Mrs. Trapes complains that she has thereby lost the leverage she needs to keep her clients in line. (Bear)

98) Half a Crown: a crown was a coin worth five shillings. (Bear)

99) Accidents: pregnancies, and perhaps cases of syphylis (which at the time was incurable). (Bear)

100) Farthing: coin valued at one-fourth of a penny. (Bear)

101) Hackney Coach: four-wheeled coach drawn by two horses; seated six. The fare was one shilling. (Bear)

102) Skiff: an open boat with center board and mast, suitable for light cargo carrying but vulnerable, especially when heavy, to rough weather. (Bear)

103) Rats-bane: arsenic trioxide. Has a characteristic almond-like smell which is easily disguised by some alcoholic drinks. (Bear)

104) Spleen: melancholia. (Bear)

105) Vapours...Dram: the vapours were any form of melancholia or nervous disorder; a frequent excuse for the ladies to take a "dram"--a small quantity of drink such as gin in a cup or glass sized accordingly. (Bear)

106) Tyburn Tree: the gallows at the place of execution. (Bear)

107) Reprieve: commutation of the sentence of execution. This is not a pardon, and Macheath may expect still to be transported. (Bear)

108) Doxies: a "doxy" is a prostitute or mistress. Here the term is used in reference to the women of a Turkish harem. (Bear)